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Austin calls for review of Pfizer site proposal
(April 19, 1999)

President Philip E. Austin Tuesday asked the University's master plan committee to review the proposed Horsebarn Road site for the UConn-Pfizer Center of Excellence in Vaccine Research.

His decision followed more than an hour of testimony at the Board of Trustees' meeting where alumni, students, emeritus faculty, and others offered support for the center, but requested that the site be reconsidered.

"I absolutely aggressively support the Pfizer project. But this will give us more opportunity to receive input on the site," Austin said. He directed the committee to study alternative sites quickly so as not to delay the project, scheduled for groundbreaking before fall.

The committee will look at the proposed nine-acre Horsebarn Road site and other sites as well, said Karla Fox, associate vice chancellor and co-chair of the Master Plan Advisory Committee. The committee will study the pros and cons for various sites and make a recommendation to the president, she said.

Fox said written comments on the Pfizer project site should be sent to the Master Plan Committee, c/o the Chancellor's Office, U-86.

The 90,000 square-foot, $35 million building will be located on land leased to Pfizer for $1 per year and will include laboratory space to be used by Pfizer, and 18,000 square feet owned by Pfizer and leased to UConn for $1 a year. The facility, which will be added to the town's tax rolls, will be used for basic and applied research on vaccines to improve the health of livestock including swine, sheep, and cows. The building will be managed by UConn.

The Horsebarn Road site was selected after review of a number of other sites because of its proximity to other agricultural research. The actual area proposed for the building was adjusted in response to citizens' comments.

Most of the demonstrators, some with life-sized puppets and horse costumes, who attended the Board of Trustees meeting protested the location of the building but said they supported the Pfizer-UConn partnership.

"Horsebarn Hill is a most treasured landmark, widely admired," student Lisa Terazakis, a senior, said. "It is a defining part of our school" and should not be disturbed, she said.

Others disagreed. Philip Marcus, professor of molecular and cell biology, said the site does not compromise the drumlin that forms Horsebarn Hill. "I could not see (during a tour of the site) how this area will be compromised. The facility is one we can be proud of, and I urge you to stay the course," he told the trustees.

The Pfizer-UConn project was also the subject of a five-hour public workshop on Tuesday, featuring information on the project for members of the faculty, staff, student body and public.

In other business, the trustees formally named the School of Education for donor Raymond Neag, who recently contributed $21 million to the school, the largest amount ever given to a school of education in the U.S. With matching funds from the state Legislature, Neag's gift totals $27 million, and includes funds for the both the School of Education and the UConn Health Center.

The trustees also agreed to name Building D in the new South Campus complex for alumnus Lewis B. Rome, former chairman of the Board of Trustees, who spearheaded the drive to tear down the old South Campus dormitories and replace them with the neo-Gothic structures that opened last fall.

The trustees also named the former Faculty Alumni Center on Hillside Road, which houses the Admissions offices, the Gordon Tasker Building, in honor of Tasker, chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1972 to 1980. And they named the gardens on the west shore of Swan Lake the Schwenk Family Gardens in honor of Harold Schwenk Jr. and Paula Schwenk '79 MA, who established the Harold S. Schwenk Sr. Distinguished Chair in Chemistry in 1996 and provided funds for The Fund For Innovative Education in Science. The gardens are located in front of the new Chemistry Building.

The trustees also rescinded approval for a three percent tuition hike scheduled to take effect July 1. The action brings the University into compliance with a request from Gov. John G. Rowland to freeze tuition at current levels.

Karen Grava