Construction of the Jonsson-Rowland Science Center marked the first step in a plan to develop institutional research, increase graduate enrollment and modernize the RPI campus. The Science Center was dedicated along with the new Linear Accelerator on October 21, 1961. Instead of a traditional ribbon cutting, the building was opened with a chain cutting with the use of a blow torch. The first phase of the proposed science center complex included two laboratories designed as modular units with movable metal walls for flexible lab space. The Jonsson Laboratory for the Study and Teaching of Science was named for J. Erik Jonsson, Class of 1922, who provided the funds to build and equip the laboratory. The Rowland Physics Laboratory was named in memory of Henry A. Rowland, Class of 1870, a distinguished physicist and first president of the American Physical Society. In addition to laboratories, the new building housed offices for the school of science and physics and mechanics departments. The four story building, joined at right angles, was designed by architects Voorhees, Walker, Smith & Smith at a cost of $3,003,000.
In a message to the Institute, President John F. Kennedy stated that, "the dedication of the new Science Center and Linear accelerator at Rensselaer is a significant event in the life of one of our leading technological institutions."