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Prayer, cross part of ceremony for new Newman science center

Tim Helten, left, project superintendent, and Tom Dondlinger, president of Dondlinger Construction, watch Monday as a cross is raised over the new Bishop Gerber Science Center on Newman University’s campus. (Jan. 9, 2017)
Tim Helten, left, project superintendent, and Tom Dondlinger, president of Dondlinger Construction, watch Monday as a cross is raised over the new Bishop Gerber Science Center on Newman University’s campus. (Jan. 9, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

A prayer and a cross were fitting touches Monday at Newman University’s Bishop Gerber Science Center topping-off ceremony.

The ceremony began in Newman’s newly renovated Eck Hall with a prayer – written by Gerber – and ended with the placement of a cross on the top of the nearly completed science center.

“Finally, we’re going to have some facilities that are commensurate with the quality of our academic programs,” Newman president Noreen Carrocci said. “It’s like a dream come true.”

The new center replaces the Heimerman Science Center and is connected to Eck Hall.

The center was funded by Newman’s Facing Forward campaign. The building is scheduled to be finished in August and open for the fall semester.

It will feature state-of-the-art science, nursing and health sciences facilities that will contain specialized equipment, the latest lab and classroom technology and high-tech ventilation systems, school officials said.

Carrocci said Newman struggled with fundraising until Gerber agreed to let the school use his name, so she hopes people will think of Gerber’s legacy when they think of the building.

“When he said yes, we made significant progress; we got there, and now we exceeded our goal, so we’re just feeling so blessed today,” Carrocci said. More than half the donations were given in Gerber’s name, she said.

Monday’s topping-off ceremony – which celebrates the placement of the building’s final beams – also gave school officials an opportunity to reveal the results of Newman’s fundraising campaign. The campaign began in 2011 and exceeded its goal of $24.5 million for the science center and renovations to Eck Hall, raising about $24.8 million. The campaign’s overall goal of $30 million was also exceeded, at about $32.3 million.

“Our students are very successful in doing what they want to do after Newman, and this will help them be even better, because there will be research spaces that we just haven’t had,” Carrocci said.

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