Construction Transforms Lamoni Campus

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Press Release

May 18, 2011

Construction Transforms Lamoni Campus

Major construction projects this year are transforming our Lamoni campus into one of the most contemporary university campuses in the Midwest. A beautiful new apartment complex where the old ‘Units’ used to stand is complete and students are moving in to start the new year. When you stand back and look at the two long buildings from the back, near the Lamoni bike trail, you get a real sense of their beauty, and functionality. You only have to see the smiles on students’ faces as they unload their cars and move in to know that the apartments are a big hit. 

The new apartments are named the Thomas Apartments (along University Avenue), made possible by gifts from Norma (Thomas), GU Class of 1956, and Richard P. Small; and the Small Apartments (along Cedar Street), made possible by gifts from Norma (Thomas), GU Class of 1956, and Richard P. Small.

Also, an exciting new wellness/fitness facility to be called the Fitzgerald Fitness Center, located between Cheville Chapel and the Higdon Administration Building, is just about ready for ground breaking. 

As if that was not enough, groundbreaking for the the stunning new Shaw Center has been held and construction is well underway. The front section is torn off, major excavation work is taking place, and the interior work has begun. A large new parking lot to the north of the Helene Center is taking shape fast, and the new circle drive leading to the Higdon Administration Building is going to be stunning. It will all take time, but wow, will it be worth it. (The new circle drive is well under construction, below)

Twenty-million dollars in construction and significant facilities’ improvements are making the Lamoni campus a very active and exciting place to be. Be prepared to be impressed when you are here for Homecoming Weekend October 14-16.

‘Units’ Make Way for New Apartment Buildings

Click on Graceland’s Facebook link to view photos of progress on the apartments, the Shaw project, and all of the projects underway on campus. The Lamoni campus has been a whirlwind of activity this summer.

The new apartments, which reflect the look of Graceland’s familiar red brick, are being occupied by juniors and seniors, and a few university staff members. Each new building has 24 apartments. They have two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, living room and dining area. Approximately 96 students will occupy the new apartments. Graceland is focusing on energy efficiency and building sustainability in the construction.

The idea for the apartments was brought to President John Sellars by Norma T. Thomas ‘56 Small and her husband Dick Small, of Tulsa, OK, where builder Jack Meyers, and Architects’ Collective, have built similar apartments. Graceland staff, students and administrators visited the University of Tulsa twice and were convinced that the beautiful apartments they saw were a perfect match for the needs of Graceland students.

Our students have been polled several times about facility needs and they emphatically said that a fitness/wellness center is their number-one priority, followed closely by upgrades in residential facilities. “So, we are responding to our students,” said President Sellars. “We are providing Dean of Students Marian Killpack with the tools she needs to run a top-notch 21st Century student life and residential life program. That is at the heart of what we are doing this summer. We are putting students first.”

A New Wellness/Fitness Center to be called ‘The Fitz Center’

Students are at the forefront of finalizing plans for an exciting new fitness/wellness center to be built to the north of the Higdon Administration Building, roughly between Marietta Walker and Tess Morgan women’s residence halls.

Alumna Janet Braun ’61 Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald, and their children, have stepped forward with a significant gift to fund the new building. Design plans call for a beautiful glass, brick and limestone building that will afford wonderful views of one of the most picturesque areas on campus.

Students worked with staff and administrators to determine what kinds of equipment and amenities will grace the new facility. The Fitzgerald family hopes the Fitz Center will be a place for all Graceland students to learn about and practice healthy lifestyles. Dean of Students Marian Killpack calls the new center a very exciting way for our students to conveniently add a health and fitness dimension to their daily lives. Two of the Fitzgerald’s children, Randall ’91 and Robin ’89 Long, are Graceland graduates. Groundbreaking is expected soon.

The exciting Fitz Center plans include more than $150,000 in exercise equipment, including the most popular aerobic machines, outfitted with personal viewing screens, and a full circuit of strength-and-fitness equipment and small, functional training pieces, according to Associate Professor Diane Bartholomew, who has chaired The Fitz Center planning committee.

A new era of convenient health and fitness accessibility for our students is on its way, and that is exactly what the Fitzgerald family had in mind. Robert Fitzgerald, not an alumnus, but a Gracelander through and through, said his family’s lives improved dramatically when they became more active a few years ago. “We hope our contribution helps Graceland students achieve long-term fitness lifestyles,” he said.

The Shaw Center Metamorphosis Begins

The $16 million Shaw Center expansion and renovation project has begun. Take a look at progress photos (at the Facebook link above) to see the metamorphosis taking place. The project will transform the building that was originally funded by the Shaw family in 1982. A new black-box theatre will be created, a new 150-seat recital hall, an exterior, amphitheater seating area, a stunning new atrium/lobby and gathering area, a long, north-facing corridor/art gallery, and much more. The parking lot between the Shaw Center and the Higdon Administration Building has disappeared. The center of campus will be entirely pedestrian.

It was the Shaw family vision that led to the original Shaw Center construction in 1982. Their legacy of generosity and passion for Graceland continues today with the largest single gift in university history. The Shaw Center is named for JR Shaw’s parents, Francis and Lottie Shaw. Their bronze busts are located in the Shaw Center atrium. It is to honor his parents that JR and Carol, along with JR’s late brother Les Shaw ‘50, and his wife Lois Phelps Shaw ’50, funded construction of the original Shaw Center. Hundreds of music, theatre and world-class entertainment events have taken place at the Shaw Center during the last 30 years, drawing crowds of arts enthusiasts from across the region. Upon completion, the transformed building will be one the finest performance arts centers in the Midwest, offering tremendous facilities for Graceland students to discover and share their talents.

A gala groundbreaking ceremony (a construction update photo is above) was held in conjunction with commencement weekend. Click on Shaw Groundbreaking to read all about that memorable event. And read much more about the Shaw family, the Shaw Center, and see construction progress, in the September issue of Graceland’s alumni magazine, Horizons, when we will celebrate the family and their lasting legacy to Graceland.

Even More Excitement with a Host of other Projects this Summer

And if these projects are not enough, additional major work this summer has improved residence life and campus services. GU Director of Facility Services Kurt Remmenga ‘80 is always a very busy man, but for the next 14 months he will be in hyper drive. He reports that Graceland has re-roofed Marietta Walker Hall; raised floor levels (because of settling) in Tess Morgan Hall (“a very big job,” he said) and replaced Tess Morgan steam lines; replaced A/C components in Zimmermann Hall; replaced the steam lines under the MSC; replaced two old fire hydrants on campus – which turned into a major job; replaced perimeter heaters of the Frederick Madison Smith Library used for A/C and heating; and replaced all the sidewalks around the Coliseum Theatre downtown, because of recurring flooding issues in ‘Choices,’ GU’s alternative night spot located under the theater.

Normal summer maintenance is also being done. Remmenga and his 33 employees were taxed to their limits, but he says, “It was an opportunity to excel. We rose to these great challenges.”

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