Three years ago, Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz and her father, DeLight Breidegam Jr., were planning to surprise the matriarch of the family, Helen, by naming the new health sciences center at Moravian College after her.
But those plans changed after Miksiewicz, the CEO and chairwoman of East Penn Manufacturing, the Breidegam’s family business in Lyons Station, died unexpectedly in 2014 after she was struck by a pickup truck while jogging.
Today, as the $23 million Sally Breidegam Mikesiewicz Center for Health Sciences at Main and West Laurel streets nears completion, the building stands not only as testament to the generosity and foresight of the Breidegam family, but to hope after tragedy.
Miksiewicz, a Moravian College board trustee and alumna, was an early supporter of the center, which will house the college’s growing nursing program, public health, health informatics and other health science programs. The departments had been spread out among four different buildings on campus.
Although the center is expected to be completed in July, Moravian officials led the media on a preview tour of the three-story, 55,000-square-foot glass, brick and stone building last week, where it was a beehive of activity among construction workers from J.G. Petrucci of Bethlehem.
Designed by ESa, an architectural firm based in Nashville, the building incorporates architectural elements that evoke the college’s 275-year-old Moravian heritage—such as the use local stone and a Dutch gambrel roof— with sleek, modern angles and glass and light-filled spaces.
“It also represents the next 275 years,” said Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College.
A fusion of the past and the present, the building’s architectural style was designed to fit in with the other buildings on the Main Street campus in north Bethlehem. The theme is manifested in the front and back facades, with the side that faces Main Street carrying more historic Dutch architectural references and the back of the building, the main entrance for students, conveys a more contemporary look with its use of glass.
A 500-pound, eight-foot-long glass Moravian star, the college’s symbol, will hang in a three-story glass tower, that when lit at night will be visible downtown from Main and Broad streets.
“We assume it will be a beacon or lantern for the area,” Grigsby said.
A no-shoes lounge for students, in honor of Miksiewicz’s fondness for kicking off her shoes, will be at the base of the tower on the third floor, said Gary Carney, vice president for institutional advancement.
The academic spaces include numerous classrooms, offices, labs and simulation rooms, including the Lehigh Valley’s first virtual cadaver lab. Real cadavers are difficult to obtain, even for medical schools, Grigsby said. Dissections of a virtual body will be able to be conducted on a special computerized table that projects the image onto large screens.
Two simulation labs will be equipped with three lifelike robots that can simulate human functions and will be used as teaching tools for students. Professors will be able to direct the robots to show symptoms, such as breathing at different rates, sweating, blinking their eyes, bleeding, giving birth and even calling out for help.
Students will be able to practice nursing skills in a lab that resembles a hospital intensive care unit that has 12 hospitals beds and hook-ups for bedside equipment and monitors.
Moravian’s popular nursing program was one of the primary factors for building the center. Grigsby said when he began as president of the college, Kerry Cheever, chairwoman of the nursing and public health department, told him, “I need a building.”
Once complete, nursing students will no longer have to travel to St. Luke’s University Hospital Network facilities to take classes. The center was designed to accommodate a 25 percent growth in the nursing program, which has 60 students on a waiting list, Grigsby said.
Other highlights include an informatics lab, where students will learn the latest in the growing field of health care analytics using computer data. The room will have floor-to-ceiling whiteboards. “It will look like any computer science wing in Merck or any corporate environment,” he said.
A community room designed to resemble a hospital waiting room or a home will be used to train students on how to talk to patients and their families when dealing with difficult or sensitive subjects. Grigsby said professors from Moravian Theological Seminary have also expressed interest in using the community room to teach their students.