Westminster College announced Thursday that the Meldrum Foundation, a Utah-based family foundation, has committed $5.5 million to the construction of a new science center.

The Meldrum donation, along with others, will permit the college to break ground on the much-needed building in May.

"This generous gift underscores the foundation's belief in our students and the hands-on way we educate them in the sciences," said Westminster President Michael S. Bassis. He said the building will carry the Meldrum name and become the capstone of the college's 10-year master plan.

The $25 million Meldrum Science Center, scheduled to open in 2010, will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold-certified and house 14 open and flexible classroom/laboratories and five dedicated undergraduate research labs.

"We are most impressed by the top-notch science education the college provides, and the innovative way in which students learn," said Peter Meldrum, president and CEO of Myriad Genetics and member of the Westminster Board of Trustees. "Helping provide the faculty and students with a state-of-the-art facility is a wonderful way for the foundation and our family to encourage excellence in science education."

The 60,000 square-foot building is designed by VCBO Architects and will be constructed by Big D Construction. The LEED certification will include sustainable energy options such as the use of natural lighting, a collection of storm water used to flush the toilets, the use of local building materials and others.

Bassis says the design and construction of the building will serve as an important teaching tool for students as well as the community.

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com