“The College That Built the City”: Higgins Center Groundbreaking

by TAYLOR BRETHAUER, Editor-in-Chief

The Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins Engineering and Science Center groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday, April 26 in the Leo Hall parking lot. Many honored guests and alumni were in attendance as shovels were officially dug into the ground to symbolize the first phase of the south campus expansion.

The phrase being thrown around throughout the day was “the college that built New York City”, referring to the impact that Manhattan College engineering students have made throughout the years in New York City. Many expect that the new STEM building, including renovations to Leo Hall, will increase that influence in years to come. 

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Esteemed members of the Manhattan College Community put on their hard hats and use their commemorative shovels to symbolize the start of the south campus plans. TAYLOR BRETHAUER / THE QUADRANGLE

Leo Hall, which currently houses the school of engineering, some laboratories for the school of science and the communication department, has already seen renovations begin in some of the engineering offices. The construction of the Higgins building is expected to begin by the end of the week.

The Leo Hall parking lot was transformed into the ceremony space as the 1 Train roared in the background. Attendants proudly wore their commemorative MC shovel pins on their lapels as they greeted one another before the ceremony. 

At 1:30 p.m. sharp, Thomas Mauriello, vice president for college advancement and the master of ceremonies for the day took to the stage to invite everyone to their seats. Faculty, guests, alumni and students sat down as the ceremony began.


Vice president for mission, Brother Jack Curran, F.S.C., gave the invocation, starting off with a joke: “Ladies and gentlemen, we come to a parking lot…”

He continued.

“This is a site where students and faculty will come to engage,” he said of the pavement, which will soon be a construction site to building the new center.

President Brennan O’Donnell took to the stage afterward to give his remarks, talking about the history of Leo Hall and the adjacent Research Learning Center (RLC) being part of the storied history of STEM at MC. He then mentioned the college’s acquisition of what once was a chocolate factory (Leo Hall) and a furniture showroom (RLC). 

He then spoke about the importance of this project as a key vision to the college’s planned expansion.

“In addition to providing teaching and research facilities, we need to continue Manhattan’s distinctive tradition of excellence in the next generation and beyond […]” said O’Donnell.

Cornelius Higgins ‘62 also spoke, discussing his relationship to MC and God, speaking about the blessings in his life. He also mentioned his wife, Patricia, who the building will also be named after. Higgins received a standing ovation after his speech and he humbly smiled and waved as he left the podium.

Before the official groundbreaking, the campus chaplain, Father Tom Franks, OFM Cap., gave the construction site a blessing, praying in gratitude towards the Higgins family and in support of the designers, donators and community

One of the shovels used for the groundbreaking. TAYLOR BRETHAUER / THE QUADRANGLE

“Whenever we look to the interests of our community and serve them,” said Franks, “We are in a sense God’s own coworkers. Let us pray for God’s help through this celebration, my sisters and brothers, that God will bring strength to this successful construction.”

Finally, the groundbreaking took place as Curran, Thomas O’Malley ‘63, senior Roma Parikh, the Higgins, O’Donnell, chairman of the Board of Trustees Kenneth Rathgeber, professor Shawn Ladda and senior Jorge Gonzalez, doned MC hard hats and took their commemorative shovels and dug into the dirt before them.

The 30,000-square-foot Engineering and Science center is scheduled to be completed in the fall, serving as an anchor for the new south campus in the coming years.