Title: AU breaks ground on Wellness Center
They drank in the sun as they stood behind Anderson University’s O.C. Lewis gymnasium, 500 people or more, waiting for the celebration to begin while music blared and a television news helicopter droned overhead. And when a big, red Mack dump truck pulled up to the speaker’s stand, horns blasting, and Dr. James Edwards, sporting a hard-hat, jumped out of the truck, the crowd cheered. “I didn’t come in a plane because the jump was a little longer than from a truck,” said Edwards, AU President. “Thank you all for helping us celebrate a great day in the life of Anderson University.”
After more than 12 years in the planning, the AU Wellness Center got its ceremonial kickoff Wednesday. The center, with a planned 121,000 square feet, will open its door to students in the fall of 2002.
“Our research has shown that 80 percent of our students will be in the Wellness Center each day,” Edwards said.
And while student athletes and coaches were out in force Wednesday to celebrate the moment, the Wellness Center will be far more than an athletic facility.
The task of faculty at AU is to prepare students for productive lives of service, Edwards said, lives that reflect physical and spiritual wellness. It is a promise mortared into the foundation of the first building raised 83 years ago.
“The idea of a Wellness Center is founded in the notion of this institution,” Edwards said. “This facility will help us keep that promise to our students. We think this will be a great benefit to prepare each one for a journey of faith.”
Many of those present Wednesday were alumni who helped make the Wellness Center possible by their donations for the $16 million facility. That money was part of the most recent capital campaign that brought in $84 million in resources for the future, Edwards said.
The center, built in the shape of an L, will connect the O. C. Lewis gymnasium to the Bennett Natatorium. Both of those existing buildings on the northeast end of the campus will receive significant upgrades as part of the project. An additional $600,000 will be spent on instructional and athletic equipment for a variety of fitness and health programs.
Local civic leaders, such as Anderson Mayor J. Mark Lawler and Judge Dennis Carroll, took a hand at turning a shovel of dirt, as did former AU President Robert Nicholson. And after distinguished alumni Bill Hardacre and Dr. Stan Kardatzke manned shovels, Edwards called the students, faculty and those involved in the construction forward.
"All of our friends, come forward. Where’s the women’s tennis team?” Edwards called out. “Even our track team members on crutches can turn a little dirt. Come on up here.” And they rushed forward, hands out for shovels, as Edwards smiled.
Denny Lehnus, the men’s basketball coach at AU, stood watching. When he was a student at AU, there were seven sports. Now there are 16.
“I hope people don’t look at this as just a sports facility,” Lehnus said. “This is so much more. From every aspect, this is the greatest thing that’s happened at this campus in many years. It’s going to be a resource for this whole community.”
"Students start lifelong health habits during their college years," Edwards said during an interview last week. “Prospective students come to the campus with three specific questions: ‘Where am I going to eat?’ ‘Where am I going to sleep?’ and ‘Where can I work out?’ When prospective students come to Anderson University in the future, they’ll have the Wellness Center as one answer.”
--Cindy Carson is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.