By: Laura Nielsen – Iowa History Center Scholar
February 17, 2020
The Carver Science Center was built in October of 1956, named after George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver studied Art and Piano at Simpson and is considered one of Simpson’s most famous students. Housed in the Carver Atrium since 1991, is a plaster statue of Carver as a young man, which went on to be used as the model to cast the bronze sculpture, “The Boy Carver,” located at the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri. This sculpture represents the potential and dreams of the son of a slave who went on to become a world-famous agricultural expert. Simpson was the first college to admit George Washington Carver, and Simpson continues to embrace that spirit today by providing all students with a dream and a willingness to work towards those dreams. For this reason, the Carver Science Center found its namesake.
Being the primary science center on campus, the building is home to Simpson’s Mathematics, Computer Science, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, and Physics Departments. The science hall is filled with chemistry, biology, and computer labs, all of which have been freshly renovated and include advanced technology such as an atomic force microscope. There is even a human cadaver lab in the basement of Carver Science Hall for upper-level biology students to utilize and gain integral experience and insights that are unique on a small campus like Simpson’s. Carver Science Center is also home to Simpson’s largest classroom: Jordan Lecture Hall. This classroom seats 120 students, which is an excellent testament to Simpson’s small classes and personalized education values. Various departments will often utilize Jordan Lecture Hall as a location for campus lectures on different areas of research or education.
Within the walls of Carver Science Hall, there are also numerous bone and taxidermied animal displays. One of particular note is “DJ the Giraffe” on the East side of the second floor. DJ was a gift from the Blank Park Zoo and a couple of Simpson faculty members got to be a part of the process of preparing and installing the skeleton at Simpson. Almost a dozen other specimens of rare and endangered species adorn the walls. These were a kind gift of the Townsend family through Simpson’s partnership with the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines. The story of DJ and other gifts to the college is an excellent representation of Simpson’s partnerships and connections with the Des Moines area and Iowa businesses. Carver Science Center has not always looked like it does today. In 1993 it underwent a massive remodeling project. This nine-million-dollar renovation and expansion project included the addition of the Carver atrium, Jordan Lecture Hall, and various labs. In the past five years, classrooms and labs have also been receiving renovations. In Summer 2017, the Biology lab on the first floor received the addition of state-of-the-art presentation technology and six laboratory pods where students can work as teams to collaborate on research projects. The rest of the first-floor classrooms and labs were also renovated in Summer 2019.