Construction Begins for New Wabash Center Building

by Jim Amidon

July 20, 2007

The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion will be moving into a new home as it begins its 12th year of serving theology and religion faculty in colleges, graduate schools, and seminaries.

Founded in 1996 and housed in Wabash College’s historic Hovey Cottage since that time, the Wabash Center will move next spring into a 4,000 square-foot office and conference facility to better meet the needs of the hundreds of scholars who attend workshops and consultations on the Wabash campus each year. Work at the site of the former Kingery Hall is scheduled to begin before the end of this month.

"The new Wabash Center building will give us new space for conversations and work," said Wabash Center Director Nadine Pence. "The design brings under one roof our resource, work, and classroom space, as well as making it possible to have occasional meals and receptions." (Pence is pictured above right with President Pat White, Dean Gary Phillips, and the Wabash Center staff.)

The one-story, L-shaped building has been designed with hospitality as its centerpiece, owing to the long-standing Wabash Center tradition of welcoming scholars from across the United States and Canada. In addition to four offices for Wabash Center professional staff, the building will include a 25-seat conference room; two smaller breakout meeting rooms; space for five administrative staff; a large, open reception area; and a kitchen. The most striking feature of the new Wabash Center building is its semi-circular patio and garden area, through which visitors will walk as they enter the new facility.

"This new building will be a wonderful conversation and work space for the many visiting faculty who come to the Wabash campus each year," said Pence. "Its design is open and inviting; the building material will be warm and receptive. We’ll be able to have all our library resources out and accessible to the occasional browser, our office staff will be able to work in space that is configured for them, and the workshop classroom and break-out rooms will be near-by and usable all year."

Created and sustained by grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion seeks to strengthen and enhance education in North American theological schools, colleges and universities. The Center helps build enabling environments for good teaching and learning through workshops and conferences, grant-making, and consultants’ program. These programs support the initiatives of faculty and institutions that enhance the teaching of theology and religion, allowing for thoughtful reflection on the vocation of teaching.

"Our visitors regularly talk about their week or two here as ‘transformative’ for their whole careers," said Wabash’s Bill Placher, a founding Wabash Center Advisory Board member. "The success of the Center means we have outgrown our original space in Hovey Cottage. The Center’s staff is excited by the plans for this new building on the site of Kingery Hall, which will help us maintain the Wabash Center's tradition of extraordinary hospitality."

Hospitality has been the hallmark of the Wabash Center’s success. Wabash Center grants and workshops have revealed that thoughtful reflection on the vocation of teaching theology and religion enhances the quality of teaching and reinvigorates faculty in all stages of their careers. The Wabash Center facilitates interactions among teachers and scholars through recurring week-long workshops, conferences, and consultations.

"Considerable thought has been given not only to the fit between building space and function but also to environmental and aesthetic footprint," said Religion Professor Gary Phillips, who is also Dean of the College at Wabash. "On the site of the former Kingery Hall, the new building will be nestled among an impressive stand of trees and serve as a welcoming sign to all who approach the College from the south. As I see it, scholarship, structure, and service are tied together in an invitational way, in a Wabash way."

The new facility is being funded by insurance settlements from a wind storm that devastated the 100-year-old Kingery Hall nearly 18 months ago, as well as earned interest money from Lilly Endowment Inc. grants to the Wabash Center.

Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects designed the new facility.

For more information on the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and its programs, contact Director Nadine S. Pence at pencen@wabash.edu or by phone at 800-655-7117. Visit the Wabash Center on the web by clicking here.

 


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