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History: The Hagener Science Center and Physical Plant

MSU-Northern, The Beginnings, addendum


January 31, 2014

As a precaution, I ran my Part 5 of Northern’s Beginnings past a retired Northern professor, who found an error in the previous segment. He discovered I hadn’t spelled President Brockman’s first name correctly, and he asked why I hadn’t mentioned the Math-Science building. So I approached managing editor John Kelleher about correcting my error. Actually there were two, the other being the omission of the Physical Plant Building. Of course, he grumbled something about “this isn’t a book, you know.” But he consented if it was short. Thus we continue …

The permanent Physical Plant building (1966) and the Math-Science building (1968) came into being under the busy administration of Dr. J.R. Crowley.

The Physical Plant building had had two previous locations in temporary buildings along “Technology Row.” It was built upon higher ground on the southwest campus corner, bordering a city alley and 13th Street West. The brick structure has an unusual roof that is in the form of a slight V extending from the middle for drainage. The upper floor contains the offices and the freight area. Below are the shops and extended garages to the north and additional ones toward the west with a material yard attached. The previous building became a storage area, and it was abolished to make way for the Farm Mechanics building. Here frustrated directors of the past and present with never enough money have tried to keep the campus and buildings ship shape.

The two-story brick Math-Science building was completed two years later in 1968. After having been cramped into the old high school and Pershing Hall, I’m sure it seemed like a paradise. It came equipped with faculty offices, classrooms and labs for chemistry, biology, physics and earth science. A special fixture, thanks to the Hagener’s urging, was a glassed in display and storage areas that could be viewed from the hallways. It also contained a large first-floor lecture room (or the “pit”) in the front section of the building that dropped down several rows to the podium area. It featured the best in lighting and audio visual equipment.

A second-floor classroom has a domed ceiling for a spectacular view of the stars. At one point, a stairway led opened to the roof where a telescope could be set up.

Since then computer labs and an interactive telecommunication center for remote conferencing and distancing coursework lectures has been added, and probably more innovations.

In 1987 the building was rightly named in honor of L.W. “Lou” Hagener, a long-time faculty member and curator of the special collections, which were integrated with his classes.

Lou Hagener and his wife, A.R. “Toni” Hagener, are responsible for the saving and collecting of the materials in the exhibit cases — even to the big horn sheep that greets you. The Hageners came here in 1949 from the Denver area after being interviewed by President Vande Bogart in Billings. He apparently over-sold the size of our mountains since they came from the Rocky Mountains environment. Both were qualified to teach science but Toni only substituted for Lou since the rules would not allow them both to teach; besides science, over time she had three children to raise. The collections found in storage in boxes were a quite a find to the Hageners, thanks to aid from Alvin “Al” Lucke.

They included the E. Runkle fossil collection, which they added to, and the W. Wiltner, meat merchant, Indian collection. Together the Hageners studied the region’s flora and fossils and wrote pamphlets and articles about them. Toni also helped to develop the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum and has been involved in some capacity ever since.

The collection that the Hagener’s nurtured and protected will be now placed in the Vande Bogart Library under the caring hands of its staff and advisement from Toni.

So when you see the Hagener Science Center sign, think of both the Hageners.

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Reader Comments

2smart4u writes:

Willy, this isn't the first time Wilson has been wrong about local history. Sadly, it won't be his last. That East Hall sign the he and those other so called self professed 'historians' put out earlier this year contains 2 incorrect 'facts' and 1 obvious omission. Take everything these people say with a grain of salt. Most aren't from here and those that are should be ashamed over their lack of real knowledge of local history and go find something else to do. Because they stink at it.

Willy writes:

Hey there Mr. Wilson, I think you have another mistake Brockmann has two n's at the end not one as you had mentioned in the opening paragraph.

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