UWL’s New Science Building Named after Record Donation

Noah Finco, Managing Editor

The University of Wisconsin La-Crosse’s new $82 million Science Labs Building finally has its name; The Prairie Springs Science Center. 

The Paul Fleckenstein Trust following a $2 million-dollar donation to the project gained naming rights to the buliding. This last week the new name was announced as the Prairie Springs Center. Scheduled to open in fall of this year, the 187,000-square foot building will boast 36 instructional and 23 research laboratories according to a press release by UWL. The Prairie Springs Science Center is the product of the first phase of a two-phase construction project at UWL. Phase II of the project plans to demolish the existing Cowley Hall and replace it with another 146,000-square foot facility.   

Carolyn Scott, sister of the late Paul Fleckenstein, trustee of the Prairie Springs trust and a 1985 UWL alumna is quoted in the press release stating, “We hope that this gift will help to support a margin of excellence for UW-La Crosse, which continues to attract outstanding students.”  

According to his obituary, Paul Fleckenstein was a supporter of environmental education until his tragic passing at the age of 48 in 2011. He was the director of the RA Stevens Foundation and made numerous financial contributions to the Urban Ecology Center of Milwaukee, the Nature Conservatory and the Wisconsin Flagship. He gave his home in Genesee Depot the name Prairie Springs where he dedicated much of his time to land restoration. 

“I enjoy the fact that the new name represents conservation of the environmental sciences,” stated UWL junior and Biology Education and Broadfield Science education double major Annie Thorp. “Both are very important in preserving La Crosse’s natural beauty and health.” 

The Prairie Springs Science Center is not the only science center in Wisconsin that carries the trust’s name. In 2015, the Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust made a $1 million gift to Carrol University in support of environmental education and research. Per the Carrol University website, this donation aided in the construction of Carrol University’s Prairie Springs Environmental Education Center and the Paul Fleckenstein Research Laboratory.  

“It’s really fitting and appropriate that we name this transformational building after this transformational gift,” stated Mark Sandheinrich, UWL’s Dean of the College of Science and Health in an interview with The La Crosse Tribune. “This is going to offer just incredible opportunities for laboratory science and research for our students.” 

According to the UWL press release, the donation also will fund lecture series as well as an awards program recognizing achievements by faculty and staff in the environmental sciences. 

“One of the things Paul wanted to accomplish was to have a reach throughout the state of Wisconsin,” quoted Jay Scott a trustee of the Prairie Springs: Paul Fleckenstein Trust in The La Crosse Tribune. “We felt this was one way that we could have that reach.”