When the Montgomery
County Campus opened in 1988, its
lone building stood more or less
solitarily, among rolling pastures and farm fields. The
only major neighbor of the Rockville, Md.,
campus was the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, which had
opened nine years earlier.
Today, those pastures and fields have been transformed
into a burgeoning campus located in
the heart of what is now known as DNA Alley, the 15-mile
stretch of the I-270 corridor that houses
some of the world's most cutting-edge genomic firms and
Johns Hopkins helped lead the way.
The university last Monday celebrated its first 20
years in Montgomery County and heralded its
plans for the future, which include the further expansion
of the current campus and the development
of the nearby Belward Research Campus.
The anniversary event, held in the Gilchrest Hall
Auditorium, featured talks by President
William R. Brody; Isiah "Ike" Leggett, Montgomery County
executive; Michael Knapp, president of the
Montgomery County Council; Aris Melissaratos, JHU senior
adviser for enterprise development; Edgar
Roulhac, founding director of MCC and now vice provost for
academic services; and Sarah Steinberg,
associate dean of Advanced Academic Programs in the Krieger
School. Elaine Amir, executive director
for Johns Hopkins Montgomery County, served as master of
The celebration began with an unconventional
performance by a local theater troupe called
Imagination Stage, which demonstrated the promise of
genetic medicine through a narrated
musical/dance sketch. The performance was followed by 11
speakers who told the story of the
campus's growth, development and future.
Jennie Forehand, Maryland state senator and one of the
first speakers of the morning event,
lauded the visionary partnership between the state,
Montgomery County government and Johns
Hopkins to make the campus a reality.
"I am happy to say that I was there at the beginning,
working to get Johns Hopkins here. I knew
they would be a coalescing force and a catalyst for
bringing in businesses in the life sciences,"
Forehand said. "Johns Hopkins' continued presence here has
let us keep this edge in DNA Alley."
The campus's history traces back to 1983 and a series
of conferences sponsored by the
Montgomery County Commission on Higher Education in Science
and Technology, initiated by then
county executive Charles W. Gilchrist. The commission,
which included faculty and administrators
from JHU, concluded that the presence of a major research
university in Rockville would be critical
for the area's future economic stability and
In 1984, Johns Hopkins conducted a feasibility study
that surveyed roughly 800 scientists and
engineers representing Montgomery County's technology and
federal research communities. The
survey revealed a high level of interest in graduate
courses and noncredit programs in computer
science, electrical engineering, public health and
Gilchrist and then university President Steven Muller,
who also served on the Montgomery
County Commission on Higher Education in Science and
Technology, and who attended the event, later
worked together to bring about an agreement whereby 36
acres of land, adequate public facilities
(including needed easements and road expansion) and $9.2
million were given to JHU to start the
campus. As part of the agreement, the university would
offer graduate and noncredit programs that
would help meet the needs of students and businesses in
suburban Maryland's biotechnology and
information technology corridor.
The university broke ground on the campus in 1986, and
it officially opened as the JHU
Montgomery County Center in fall 1988 with 892 students
taking classes in its 49,000-square-foot
building, modeled after the Kossiakoff Center at the
Applied Physics Laboratory. In April 2006, this
building was named Charles W. Gilchrist Hall to honor the
county executive's role in the creation of
the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, which includes the
Montgomery County Campus.
During Roulhac's part of the "storytelling," he noted
Muller's leadership in recognizing the
importance of an early Johns Hopkins presence and
involvement in a rapidly evolving and expanding
Montgomery County and I-270 high-technology corridor.
A second 49,000-square-foot building opened in 2000.
In summer 2004, the campus welcomed
115,000-square-foot Building III, which, in addition to
providing much-needed classroom and research
space for the growing campus, included space to be leased
to non-JHU tenants — primarily science- and
technology-related companies, agencies or organizations.
Subsequently, the campus has opened the
JHU Microscopy Center for live cell imaging.
MCC today serves 4,500 full- and part-time students in
more than 60 degree and certificate
programs from five university divisions: Arts and Sciences,
Business, Education, Engineering and Public
Health. Roughly 450 adjunct and full-time faculty teach
there, and dozens of researchers work in its
labs. The campus is also home to 10 stand-alone companies,
research centers and nonprofit
organizations, seven of them having joined the MCC
community in just the past two years.
The campus currently contains 215,000 square feet of
office, education and lab space. The plan
is to expand it to more than 900,000 square feet of
academic, research and corporate space during
the next decade.
In addition to the Montgomery County Campus' 36 acres,
the Johns Hopkins Belward Research
Campus has 108 acres to be developed for research and
education. JHU plans to build nearly 5 million
square feet of research space on the site. The university
has just begun the planning process for this
piece of land, which is part of Vision 2030, a plan to
create a 600-acre world-class science community
in the Shady Grove area.
At the 20th anniversary event, President Brody talked
about the campus's strategic position,
located near such high-powered government agencies as the
National Institute of Standards and
Technology, Food and Drug Administration, National
Institutes of Health, NASA and others. He said
that Johns Hopkins and its neighbors must continue to use
the resources that surround them to
effect great change and lead us to new discoveries.
"Johns Hopkins is committed to being the engineer of
innovation and a champion of collaboration
for applied science and medical research in this region,"
he said. "Today, we celebrate 20 years of
growth. We also look to the future. We have the ability and
the opportunity to make the best of what
surrounds us, the largest collection of biomedical research
assets in the world."
Michael Knapp, president of the Montgomery County
Council, equated the research being
conducted at the campus, and throughout Shady Grove, to the
search for the illusive fountain of
youth. Knapp challenged Johns Hopkins to help lead the way
to the next frontier of human health that
builds upon the work of the Human Genome Project.