ISB reaches halfway point; final steel beam in place


Students and faculty will have a chance to leave their mark on the Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB) by signing the building’s final steel beam.

Just over one year after breaking ground on the ISB, Webster University will hold a “topping out” ceremony commemorating the placement of the last steel beam of the building’s frame.

The ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 14 on the Mary Ann Lee Plaza at Webster.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to join in the celebration and sign their names on the beam between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., after which construction workers will begin the placement. The ceremony will feature remarks from Board Chair Amelia Bond, President Elizabeth Stroble and Provost Julian Schuster, among others.

Stroble said the ISB’s topping out will be the first such ceremony at Webster in recent memory, as the East Academic Building was constructed without one.

“I think somebody who was new to the leadership team who said, ‘Are we going to do a ‘topping out’ ceremony?’ And I said ‘Well sure, we ought to,” Stroble said. “We did a groundbreaking, and we’ll do a grand opening, but this is a good sort of mile marker that helps people come together and feel a sense of progress, and ownership, and community.”

The construction of the ISB reached the halfway point with the completion of a steel frame / Photo by Jordan Palmer
The construction of the ISB reached the halfway point with the completion of a steel frame / Photo by Jordan Palmer

According to Webster University press release, the “topping out” ceremony is a tradition derived from an ancient Scandinavian ritual, in which builders would place a tree on top of a new building to appease spirits displaced by the building’s construction. After placing the final beam, construction workers will be offered a mid-morning snack, in keeping with the tradition of offering the builders a meal or toast in appreciation for their work.

The ISB is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2017 semester, and will house several departments within the the College of Arts and Sciences. It represents a significant university investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, which are projected for growth in the coming years.

Stroble said the project and approaching ceremony remind her of the class of 1966, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary at homecoming in September.

“It was fun to tell them that we’re building [the ISB] because many of them were chemistry and physics majors,” Stroble said. “Nobody knew that happened here 50 years ago. They all had their classes in the basement of Webster Hall, the 100-year-old building, so they were delighted to know that in many ways, science is coming above ground here, and that’s how I think about what this means for Webster.”

When completed, the building will be 87,866 square-feet in size, and will include 27 laboratory classrooms, three general classrooms, 51 faculty offices (with six allocated to adjunct faculty), 20 staff offices, a 129-seat auditorium and several common areas. In addition to the ISB’s construction, the parking garage is being expanded to accommodate more than double its current amount of parking spaces. That expansion is scheduled to be completed during spring of 2017.

Stroble said she hopes that the ‘topping out’ ceremony will provide an opportunity for the university to show the Webster community that the school is making good on its commitment.

“This a big, long project,” Stroble said. “And it’s easy for all of us to feel sometimes like, ‘Well, is it really on track? Is it all really going to be ready by next fall?’ And at that moment we’ll be able to affirm that we’re definitely on track.”

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