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Aug. 26, 2011

DWU's new health sciences facility will replace 100-year-old building

Tom Lawrence • The Daily Republic

Dakota Wesleyan University celebrated the start of the 2011-2012 school year Thursday by announcing the biggest donations in school history, which will be applied to the construction of a new building.

Two couples with ties to DWU each donated $5 million toward an $11.5 million health sciences center.

Paul and Donna Christen, Huron, and Fritz and Glenda Corrigan, Edina, Minn., donated the money. Both the Christens are DWU graduates, as is Glenda Corrigan, for whom the new center will be named.

The family of the late Arlene Gates also was described as a major donor.

DWU President Bob Duffett said while the building is vital to the school’s future, the students, faculty and staff who will work in it are even more important.

“The issue is not buildings, but the issue is people,” Duffett said.

The building will be built east of the Christen Family Wellness Center. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for noon Friday, Sept. 30. A fall 2013 opening is planned.

“A few years ago, our board adopted our new ‘Learn Strong’ initiatives,” Duffett said. “Our goal to become the best private, undergraduate university in the region for the sciences included building a new facility to house the College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences. Thanks to these generous donors, we will realize this goal.”

The four-story, 48,000-square-foot building will contain chemistry, biology and physics labs; two undergraduate research labs equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for student use; four nursing simulation labs; classrooms for nursing, athletic training, the sciences and mathematics; and faculty offices.

Duffett said Dakota Wesleyan raised between $10.8 million and $10.9 million and will raise the remaining amount in the coming months.

“We do not like debt,” he said.

Duffett said DWU has an “unwritten policy” to have 90 percent of the cost of any large building project on hand before putting a spade into the earth.

The 100th anniversary of the current science building, Hughes Science Hall, was marked on Aug. 1. It has served DWU long and well, school officials said, but is past its prime. The building will be preserved to house business classes when the new facility opens in two years.

DWU marked its 125th anniversary last year and school officials touched on the long, successful history of the school and its graduates during the school year’s Opening Convocation, which was held Thursday in conjunction with the donor announcements at the Sherman Center.

It was an upbeat and faith-based ceremony, opening with a hymn and a prayer.

Speeches were made and more songs sang. As the donors were introduced, they received a series of standing ovations.

Provost and Executive Vice President Amy Novak noted how the school was founded with an investment of $60,000 when fewer than 100,000 people lived in Dakota Territory. Methodist pioneers were committed to bringing education and the Christian faith to the area.

“And that investment has paid tremendous dividends,” she said.

Duffett, in his speech, spoke of four of the more than 17,000 DWU graduates:

• William “Nelson” Beck, a 1947 graduate and the son of a 1912 graduate, who invented an inflation device for the “Mae West lifejackets used during World War II.” His idea saved the lives of countless aviators, Duffett said.

Beck went on to discover and pioneer the usage of ultrasound for medical purposes, which eliminated the need for many exploratory surgeries and helped doctors save innumerable lives.

• Carol Lucas, a 1961 graduate, a gifted mathematician who pioneered work in biomedical engineering.

Lucas ended her career as chair of the biomedical engineering program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

• Maybelle Schein, a 1961 DWU grad who also graduated from the affiliated Methodist School of Nursing and went on to a long, distinguished career.

Schein worked for the Centers for Disease Control and was considered “the world’s leading expert in the principles and practices of tuberculosis testing,” according to Alan Block, of the CDC.

Schein was murdered in her Sioux Falls home this summer. A former South Dakota prison inmate has confessed to the crime.

“We weep at her death but rejoice in her life,” Duffett said.

• Allison Tendler, a 1997 DWU grad who was very active on campus. She was a Randall Scholar and was active in music and the cheerleading squad while also serving as homecoming queen.

Tendler is now an ophthalmologist in Sioux Falls and appears in a TV commercial for the prescription eye drops Restasis. The TV spot was shown Thursday and Duffett noted she was a physician playing an actor, not the other way around as is typical.

“The past is always prologue,” Duffett said. “I think some of you are going to make the same impact on society that these DWU graduates have made.”

DWU’s president was in typical form Thursday, speaking with a passion as he talked to the students, faculty and staff as well as some members of the community. He smiled several times during the program and moved about with great energy.

During his tenure as president, there have been four major renovation projects on campus — the nursing department, Allen Hall and Dayton Hall dormitories and Wagner Chapel — and four major building projects: the Sherman Center, student apartments, McGovern Library and Jackson Plaza.

In 2010, the Christens were told of DWU’s plans and offered a challenge: they would give $5 million to the project. Duffett and his team promised to find the rest of the funding.

In March, the Corrigans pledged $5 million.

The new building will allow the school to enroll up to 100 more students in the next few years, Novak said.

In recent years, DWU has seen a surge in student interest in health-care-related fields. The nursing program alone has nearly 200 students spread among the campuses in Mitchell, Huron and Sioux Falls.

Nursing students have a 100 percent placement rate, as does the accredited athletic training program. The medical school placement rate is nearly 100 percent.

“We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for Hughes Science Hall just this month,” Novak said, “but even with the age of the building and labs, our students receive an outstanding education from our faculty in the sciences and nursing.

“And though the labs are old, thanks to the Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (BRIN) grant through USD, we do have some of the most high-tech equipment in the state. This new facility will make DWU students the bestequipped in the region for medical and graduate schools.”

During the summer, a team of faculty and staff met quietly to plan the new building with architects. Included in the planning process was a professional lab planner, Glen Barry, of Design for Science, a consulting group that has worked on laboratory projects at Stanford University; the University of California, San Diego; the University of California, San Francisco; the School of Dentistry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Nebraska, Lincoln; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“The new science building provides a great investment in the future of science education at DWU,” Barry said. “The construction cost of $11.5 million is a great value, especially compared to other areas of the United States. In California, for example, a building like this would most likely cost $25 million. The new science building will have the latest technology and will provide science education labs that address how students and faculty work and interact.”

The new building will be erected where a softball field and a sand volleyball court are now located.

Novak said since softball practices are held and games played at Cadwell Park where a field is dedicated for DWU games, there will be no impact. The sand volleyball court, which is used for intramural play, may be relocated, she said.

Construction will not impact a nearby football practice field, Novak said.

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Last updated: 8/29/11