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$4.6 million planetarium and $1.35 million greenhouse:

US: State approves Ball State plans for new planetarium, greenhouse

Plans for Ball State’s new planetarium and greenhouse were approved by the state Wednesday, and the school is looking to break ground on the greenhouse as early as August. Both the $4.6 million planetarium and $1.35 million greenhouse are initiatives from the Ball State Bold campaign, which raised $210 million in 2011. 

The greenhouse, located along the South edge of Christy Woods, will be named after Dr. Joe and Alice Pursley Rinard due to Joe Rinard’s donation in honor of his late wife, Alice. 

“I’ve tried to help the schools that I have been to,” said Rinard, a retired dentist from Fort Wayne. 

Joe and Alice both grew up in Farmland, Ind., about 14 miles east of Muncie. They met before high school, fell in love, were married and then attended Ball State. 

Joe studied pre dental from 1948 until 1951, while Alice earned a degree in English, business and Spanish in 1952. She later returned to Ball State for her masters in speech and audiology in 1963. 

“It’s gone from 3,000 students to now 20,000,” Joe said. “That’s a lot of change. When I was there most of the building were what you see right around the Quad there. All the stuff further down McKinley didn’t exist.”

Joe decided to be a part of the school’s growth after his wife died in 2010 from breast cancer. 

He said one day during a biology class at Ball State his professor, Robert Cooper, the namesake of the Cooper Science Complex, stopped and encouraged his students to give back to their school. He told students the university relies on more than just tuition, Joe said. 

“I don’t know why he said it but I think it’s a big tribute to him,” Joe said. “I’d like to pass that on to students here.”

Alice had also grown close to Cooper as the secretary for the biology department. Joe said Cooper would take her on airplane rides and have her help record his notes. 

Following Cooper’s advice, Joe wanted to update the orchid greenhouse. He said the building will not only look better, but have better temperature, light and humidity control. 

It will hold one of the largest collections of orchids on a college campus, the Wheeler-Thanhauser orchid collection.

“Orchids are very unique, very mysterious, very rare and very unusual looking,” Joe said. “There’s so many, there are maybe 25 thousand different varieties of them in the world. Everybody knows what a rose looks like, they expect what a rose will look like before they even see it, but you have a variety of orchids. They are very neat.”

Joe said the greenhouse will add to the “cultural area” on the West side of campus.

“I think it will be a place where students can come and have a let down feeling and kind of have a feeling of enjoyment,” he said.

Joe said Mike Maggiotto, the dean of the College of Sciences and Humanities, coined the idea of the “cultural corridor.” 

Maggiotto links the greenhouse, planetarium, David Owsley Museum of Art, Sursa Performance Hall, Emens Auditorium, University Theatre and Bracken Library together.

“There’s a trail right there of science and culture that really provides opportunity for students,” he said. “Not only for majors, but also opportunities for students to experience things outside their majors. This is a rich, intellectual environment that we are building.”

The new planetarium will be a 52-foot dome with more than 100 seats and new optical mechanical and digital technology. It will be named after Indianapolis businessman and Ball State alumnus Charlie Brown. The university plans on beginning construction in October.

“It’s like being in an IMAX theatre, except the IMAX is usually on one wall... but this is dome so the IMAX is all around you,” Maggiotto said. “It’s like you’re inside the IMAX itself... It gives us the capability to display in a very interesting way our solar system, galaxies, the sky from the last 10,000 years to 10,000 years from now.”

When completed, the planetarium will be the largest in the state.

“This is a great asset. And it’s not just an asset to Ball State... but it’s a community asset, it’s an asset to the state of Indiana,” Maggiotto said. “It awakes a sense of what it means to do science and it makes for better, more informed citizens.”

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