Designed in the early 1980's by Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art and Planning professor Mario Schack, Snee Hall is distinguished by a four-story high open atrium which fills the space with light from a ceiling of glass.
Completed in 1984 to house Cornell's Geological Sciences, the building was named to honor of William E. Snee and his family who provided funds for its construction. Behind the building, nestled in a grove of trees, the Snee Hall Rock Park—one of four rock parks made possible by the generosity of Gertrude and Meyer Bender—provides a quiet place to sit among rocks collected from New York State and adjacent regions.
The Snee Hall atrium houses a number of fascinating displays including
the Timothy N. Heasley Mineralogical Museum, dinosaur footprints, a
life-size plesiosaur cast, fossils from the Paleontological Research
Institution that range from trilobites to mastodon tusks, a large
working model of sediment transport by water flow, and a continuously
operating, earthquake recording, seismograph station. Snee Hall houses state-of-the-art facilities for isotope geochemistry, high-pressure mineral physics, and as a part of the Cornell Center for
Materials Research, X-ray, microprobe, and electron microscopy. Snee
also is home to a wide array of specialized computation clusters and
workstations. A campus map shows Snee Hall's location.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1902, William E. Snee received both his B.S. and M.S. from Cornell. Though both of his degrees were in the field of chemistry, Snee had a lifelong interest in geology. While working towards a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering, he pursued this interest while taking classes and doing independent research in McGraw Hall's geology library. Snee continued his education at Cornell, earning a master's degree in industrial chemistry in 1926. His thesis examined the stimulation of oil wells by chemical means.
During his career in the oil industry, William Snee pursued successful new technologies and was well-respected by the business community. Though he was in the business of drilling oil, he had distaste for the negative effects on the environment and was interested in practices that would minimize the damage. Snee began to consider the potential for solar energy toward the end of his life.
After his death, William Snee left a large part of his estate to Cornell, and on October 8, 1984, following two years of construction, Snee Hall was completed as Cornell's home to Geological Sciences and was rightfully dedicated in honor of William and Katherine Snee.
EAS professor Suzanne Mahlburg Kay holds the title of William and Katherine Snee Professor of Geological Sciences.