Saturday, December 20, 2014

OU building project ushers in new era for university vision

5/10/2013

It’s one thing to talk about doing something, but quite another to see that something become a reality. For many Ottawa University students, seeing a large sign on campus with a rendering of a new library and student center moved one hotly anticipated project from being merely a “proposal” to something that actually was going to happen. The sign shows images of the new structure, but the golden shovels used by donors to actually break ground Friday morning on the new, two-phase project meant the initiative is being put in the proverbial high gear to meet the planned completion dates of summer 2014 for the Gibson Student Center and summer 2015 for the Gangwish Library.

Those completion dates will be an important milestone for the university as it celebrates its 150th anniversary, also known as a sesquicentennial. Friday’s groundbreaking party served to recognize the 250 donors — including 100 percent of the college’s board of trustees — that contributed $18 million toward the $24-million capital campaign goal. The lead gifts for the project included $1 million from Ottawan Marguerite Gibson and $1 million collectively from longtime multi-generational OU graduates, the Gangwish family. The largest single donation came from an online educational software industry leader, Blackboard, amounting to $2.5 million.

It’s one thing to talk about doing something, but quite another to see that something become a reality. For many Ottawa University students, seeing a large sign on campus with a rendering of a new library and student center moved one hotly anticipated project from being merely a “proposal” to something that actually was going to happen. The sign shows images of the new structure, but the golden shovels used by donors to actually break ground Friday morning on the new, two-phase project meant the initiative is being put in the proverbial high gear to meet the planned completion dates of summer 2014 for the Gibson Student Center and summer 2015 for the Gangwish Library.

Those completion dates will be an important milestone for the university as it celebrates its 150th anniversary, also known as a sesquicentennial. Friday’s groundbreaking party served to recognize the 250 donors — including 100 percent of the college’s board of trustees — that contributed $18 million toward the $24-million capital campaign goal. The lead gifts for the project included $1 million from Ottawan Marguerite Gibson and $1 million collectively from longtime multi-generational OU graduates, the Gangwish family. The largest single donation came from an online educational software industry leader, Blackboard, amounting to $2.5 million.

The university’s capital campaign, which began in March 2009, will be the catalyst for the biggest and most significant building effort undertaken on the campus. The new combination state-of-the-art library and student center will become the center of student life on the campus and also will serve a number of public needs with large space conference areas to accommodate up 500 people. Nowhere else in Ottawa currently can meet that need today. Another important aspect of the project is the Blackboard Center for Academic Innovation, which is expected to fuel the school’s online learning and be a catalyst for achieving student enrollment growth plans as outlined in OU’s Vision 2020 strategic plan.

The overall initiative comes at a critical time for higher educational institutions and will serve as a significant gift to the community’s growth too. Today’s students aren’t satisfied to learn in only one manner, and OU is boldly pushing forward to ensure it is offering a quality college education in the various protocols desired by traditional students, as well as busy professionals and non-traditional students who want an online-only or combination of traditional and online learning alternatives.

Donors rose to the challenge and now it’s the contractors’ turn to make the vision a reality. Students, faculty, staff and donors are excited to see that this splendid vision soon will become a reality. The community should keep an eye out as this significant structure begins to take shape and helps keep the college’s commitment to its students to offer the very best education possible. The university is making good on providing the promise-filled future students strive to achieve so they can grow to lead their own life of significance and continue the circle of giving.

— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher

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