Construction Complete: The Cici & Hyatt Brown Hall from Planning to Production


Chase Berger, News Section Editor

For months, the construction zone located just off the Stetson Green has been a nuisance for students, leaving them with fewer parking spaces and forcing their daily treks to class to be circumnavigated by fences. However, Stetson University heralded great news on September 19: the construction of the Cici & Hyatt Brown Hall for Health & Innovation would be coming to a close. The completion of the building is not only an achievement for the science program but for the school as a whole.


In April of 2018, Stetson University received its largest single gift in the school’s history. The gift—an $18 million donation—was given to Stetson by Hyatt and Cici Brown, who are longtime trustees and supporters of the university. The donation was to be used to fund the construction of a new science building on the DeLand campus and expand the science programs. At the ceremony, Wendy Libby said the donation came at just the right time, as Sage Hall was nearing operating capacity. 


When announcing their donation, Cici Brown said, “sciences and health are an area that Hyatt and I have really become focused on for a number of reasons.” She explained that one of those reasons was that the couple believed Stetson University had the potential to be the place to allow students to prepare for careers in the fields of science and health. Hyatt Brown notoriously called the financial contribution “an investment in the future.”


Stetson Today said the contribution “will help Stetson continue to be one of the leading economic engines of West Volusia, creating jobs through the construction of a new building and in attracting the better-paying jobs that come with an educated workforce.”


Talk surrounding the new building was quiet until the university officially announced its plans to construct the new science building and renovate the already existing one. The goal was to create a “science complex” to be utilized by students studying health sciences, environmental sciences, and other related fields. Monday, May 10, 2021, preparations for construction began with the closure of the parking lots behind the duPont-Ball Library and Sage Hall, and the installation of fences to separate the soon-to-be construction zone from the rest of campus.


As for the renovations of Sage Hall, those were to be started immediately after the 2021 announcement. The school shared its plans to construct a new cluster of research labs, which would consist of four different research areas including cell and tissue culture research, and molecular and microscopy research. The vertebrate anatomy teaching lab would be upgraded to include a fully segmented human 3D anatomy system called the Anatomage Table, and more student collaboration spaces would be implemented for both formal and informal settings. Additionally, renovations were to include upgrades to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems infrastructure.


The university also shared its design vision for the new building. It would boast flexible and transparent active-learning classrooms, wet teaching labs, an environmental field studies mud room, small group breakout rooms, research pods, a SMART lab, a new Teaching kitchen and a Teaching/Community Garden and greenhouse.


According to Stetson Today, the school acknowledged that the construction would create inconveniences for those on campus, but they said there was “a good plan” in place for vehicles and pedestrians that would need to be detoured in and around the site. Pedestrian Detour maps were to be distributed to the community. Stetson Today reported the administration learned that faculty and staff were interested in the campus becoming more pedestrian-friendly. The university claimed a good portion of the campus community happily anticipated more green space despite losing a majority of the Sage Hall parking lot.


Construction officially began after the university hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, June 11, 2021. The building was scheduled to be completed for the Fall 2022 semester. However, the final beam was placed seven months later on January 7, 2022. This meant the 40,153 gross square feet structure was now set to be completed sometime in late November. The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Elizabeth Skomp, PhD, cited the delays as supply chain issues. “At an earlier point in the process, certainly supply chain issues—which [are] involved [in] I think every construction project everywhere—were in play. At the outset of the project, there had been the hope that we would be open for Fall 2022. And then for some time now, we focused on November 2022 as the opening with January 2023 as the first semester when we’ll have classes in the building,” Skomp explained.


With Sage Hall renovations completed in August 2021, Scott Thacker, associate vice president of Facilities Management, joyously announced on September 19, 2022, that the Cici & Hyatt Brown Hall for Health & Innovation was nearing completion “on schedule and under budget.” Skomp believes Cici and Hyatt Brown, who have been involved in a majority of the project, are just as excited. “The Browns have been tremendously supportive of the project, and supportive of the vision as it unfolded. And my sense is that they are really enthusiastically optimistic about the opening of the building and the possibilities that it will bring,” Skomp said.


Elana Sciavally ‘23, a chemistry major and lab assistant, is excited about the new development. “I think it’ll be nice to have everyone more spread out because there are only so many places in Sage currently that you can study, and most of the time there are always people there,” she said, adding, “I think that the new building and [increased] support for students in health sciences will contribute a lot for those going for an education within that department.”


President Christopher F. Roellke, PhD, has been one of the loudest supporters of the new science building. He concluded the 2021 groundbreaking ceremony by deeming it monumental. “It is a big deal for Stetson. It is a big deal for DeLand. It is a big deal for Volusia County. It is a big deal for the state of Florida. And, of course, it is a huge deal for our students and our faculty who are going to occupy this first-rate facility to solve some of our most pressing challenges,” Roellke said.


Skomp fully echoes his sentiments. “I think it’s truly a tremendous opportunity,” she told The Reporter. “I’m absolutely thrilled that the Browns’ vision and generosity is giving us the opportunity to have some new dynamic space that promotes collaboration. And it’s going to give students wonderful opportunities. … Our hope, in addition to that, is that it’s not only a space that is utilized by those [science] departments and programs, but really that it’s going to be an inviting space bringing in others from across the College of Arts and Sciences, but also the university as a whole. It is part of Stetson.”