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Colgan Hall and the Beginnings of Mason's Science and Technology Campus

You may have seen a concert, play, or other performance in the Hylton Performing Arts Center or participated in a swim meet in the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center. Perhaps you and your coworkers took part in a team building exercise at The Edge, or you are a Mason faculty member or student in Computational Sciences, Criminology, Biodefense, or Kinesiology. If so, you most certainly have visited Mason's Science and Technology Campus.   

Mason's Science & Technology Campus, or Sci Tech, is a living example of the power of partnerships. Working with state, local, and county governments, as well as private entities, the university has established a place for both the university and the local community to learn, conduct research, and enrich themselves through cultural programs and physical activity. 

In 1986, Prince William County government officials approached George Mason University about potentially establishing a campus in the county. Mason president, George W. Johnson formed an exploratory committee with Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) to study a possible partnership between the three entities. Citing Prince William's population and economic growth, the committee recommended that Mason establish a "Center for Higher Education" at NVCC’s Manassas Campus located on Va. Rte. 234, just above U.S. Rt. 66. 

The idea to build on NVCC’s Manassas Campus was eventually abandoned because county officials felt that the Prince William facility should be a George Mason University project, exclusively. Mason's Board of Visitors agreed, and the project took form as the Prince William Institute.

The Prince William Institute opened in a temporary site in a shopping center located on Sudley Road in Manassas. It occupied part of an office building which also housed dentists and doctors' offices. During this period George Mason University, partnering with county officials, submitted a proposal to the governor and legislature in Richmond to construct a permanent campus for the Institute. While commonwealth leaders debated the project, classes and events were held at the Sudley Road location. 

The measure received approval, and a committee led by Virginia Senator Charles "Chuck" Colgan and members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors solicited area landholders for sales or donations of land for the campus. Colgan was a long-time state senator representing the western part of Prince William and an early supporter of George Mason in the county. 125 acres of land were acquired and donated by Prince William County for use by Mason. Colgan then went to bat for the project by securing the financing to complete the 8.5-mile 234 Bypass, alongside the tracts where the site was to be built. As an influential member of Virginia's Senate Finance Committee, Colgan pushed bills for the completion of this key road forward. The Bypass officially opened with a ceremony held in the actual roadbed in 1997 just months before the campus was to open. All in all, Colgan helped provide more than $600 million for George Mason University projects during his tenure.

Ground was broken for the initial buildings in September 1995. 

President Johnson retired in June 1996, and Dr. Alan G. Merten succeeded him. During his first month in office Dr. Merten changed the new location’s name from the Prince William Institute to the Prince William Campus to raise its profile.

The Prince William Campus was dedicated on September 24, 1997, with the opening of Prince William I, the initial name given the first building. Prince William I contained the campus library on the first floor, campus administrative offices on the second, engineering labs on the third, and biotech labs on the fourth. This building was renamed the Occoquan Building in 2012, and then Senator Charles J. Colgan Hall in 2016. A life-sized statue of Senator Colgan was installed that year.

Since the campus’ opening, Prince William has constructed several additional academic and research buildings: Discovery and Katherine Johnson Halls, and the Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research and the Biomedical Research Laboratory. Beacon Hall, a residence hall provides housing for 152 graduate students. The Edge, a course presenting physical and mental challenges to help develop teamwork in groups. The Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center and the Hylton Center for the Performing Arts were conceived through partnerships between the university and the Prince William County government and are enjoyed by members of the Mason and local communities. 

In 2023 there were over 4,000 students enrolled in programs at Science and Technology Campus.

Images

George Mason University sign, Prince William Campus
George Mason University sign, Prince William Campus Four employees of the then-named Prince William Campus are photographed with a newly-installed sign alonside University Boulevard. Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120, Box 107, Folder 30 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: 1997
Prince William Institute, Manassas, Virginia
Prince William Institute, Manassas, Virginia Photograph of Prince William Institute temporary location in Manassas, Virginia Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120, Box 79, Folder 80 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 1995
Route 234 Bypass opening, Manassas, Virginia
Route 234 Bypass opening, Manassas, Virginia A speaker and attendees take part in the opening of the Va Route 234 Bypass in Manassas, Virginia. Source: George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120, Box 107, Folder 30 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: 1997
Occoquan Building, Prince William Campus
Occoquan Building, Prince William Campus Exterior photograph of the Occoquan Building at the Prince William Campus Source: George Mason University Creative Services Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: circa 2010
Prince William Campus, aerial view from the south
Prince William Campus, aerial view from the south Aerial photograph of the then-named Prince William Campus showing the Occoquan Building (know known as Colgan Hall), Discovery Hall, Bull Run Hall (now known as Katherine Johnson Hall), the Freedom Aquatics and Fitness Center and the Hylton Performing Arts Center (under construction). Source: George Mason University Creative Services Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: October 2008
Prince William I shortly after completion of construction
Prince William I shortly after completion of construction Prince William I, later the Occoquan Building, and now known as Colgan Hall, is pictured shortly after construction completed during the summer of 1997. Source: George Mason University phototgraph collection, #R0120, Box 79, Folder 80 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: 1997
Virginia Senator, Charles J. Colgan speaks at the dedication of the Prince William Campus.
Virginia Senator, Charles J. Colgan speaks at the dedication of the Prince William Campus. Photograph of Senator Charles J. Colgan speaking at lectern at the Prince William Campus dedication. Source: George Mason University Photograph collection, #R0120, Box 80, Folder 2 Creator: George Mason University Creative Services Date: September 24, 1997

Location

Metadata

George Mason University Past and Present Team, “Colgan Hall and the Beginnings of Mason's Science and Technology Campus,” The Mason Experience: Past and Present, accessed July 19, 2024, https://pastandpresent.gmu.edu/items/show/14.