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Wetherill Commons gives historic lab new look



The new area around Wetherills' south entrance has been officially named Leighty Commons after John A. Leighty, who graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1936 under the direction of Professor Ralph C. Corley.

According to Chemistry Prof. Robert Wild, "Dr. Leighty had a distinguished career at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis where he was a member of the team that first produced penicillin for Lilly in the 1940s and was involved in developing, producing, and supervising the production of other pharmaceuticals including erythromycin, vancomycin, streptomycin, and Darvon. Dr. Leighty served as Executive Director of Scientific Research, where he was responsible for 650 Lilly scientists in seven research divisions.
"Dr. Leighty established several funds in the Department of Chemistry including the John A. Leighty Distinguished Professorship, The Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professorship and the John A. Leighty Undergraduate Scholarships.  In his retirement, Dr. Leighty focused on bringing the excitement of science to young people. We dedicate the John A. Leighty Commons to him as an area for aspiring scientists to study, socialize and discuss science."


A new school year came with an impressive overhaul of one of Purdue’s most historic facilities.

The south entrance of Wetherill Laboratory, which leads to the 480-seat lecture hall 200, was gutted over the summer to give students and faculty more comfortable spaces to study, meet and wait for class. Gone is a conference room and office suite. Arriving Aug. 25 was the Catalyst Café and a giant molecule of caffeine hanging from the ceiling. Welcome to Wetherill Commons.

“We’re really hoping it turns into an active learning environment for students,” said Prof. Bob Wild, assistant head of the Department of Chemistry.

Lumos Custom Lighting & Fabrication of Denver constructed the molecule while the sleek, modern spaces flanking the sculpture were created by Jung Design, a firm owned by Connie Jung of Indianapolis.

Walking into Wetherill, Catalyst Café is on the right, serving up Starbucks Coffee, Mary Lou doughnuts, bagels, brownies, cookies, and an assortment of soft drinks and other snacks. To the left, a study area was inserted, complete with a couple dry erase walls where students can scrawl Chemistry problems and diagrams.

Wetherill Commons

A series of private study pods flank the entrance of Wetherill 200.

Next to the entrances of Wetherill 200, Jung inserted private cubbies for students to study. Each area has charging stations for laptops, tablets and other devices.

Underneath Wetherill 200, a space is still under renovation to showcase the Department of Chemistry’s two Nobel Laureates, Dr. Herbert C. Brown and Dr. Ei-ichi Negishi. Busts of each professor will be installed along with a replica of Negishi’s Nobel Prize medal.

For decades, students lounged on the floor of Wetherill while waiting for class or to study. The renovation of the building, where construction started in 1928, not only looks good but it was also essential. While an addition to Wetherill was finished in 1954, the environment didn’t handle 2014 needs.

“The enrollment in 1954 just wasn’t what it is today,” Wild said. “Now, lecture hall 200 is used from 7:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon plus organizational meetings and evening exams; that room is significantly used. … Every hour we have a changeover. Students need a place to wait. What we wanted to do was open it up. It was very closed-in before.”

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