Community event center the first of many new projects
by Jessica Langdon
But the Donnelly College student — who happens to be mapping out a future in civil engineering — still landed the perfect window to watch the activity on the north side of the main tower over the past several months.
From where she worked on the sixth floor of Donnelly’s main building each day, Oseguera tracked the construction of a new community event center — a bright spot in the future of Kansas City, Kan. — that had its grand opening on April 5, and she was among the first students to step inside.
“I’m very excited,” Oseguera said of the now-complete 3,196-square-foot community event center that was dedicated and blessed in an outdoor ceremony.
To her, the new center demonstrates that Donnelly is growing. It is building on its rich history and planning for a strong future.
Donnelly, which was established in 1949, has been operating in its current location — the former site of Providence Hospital — since 1982.
Crews tore down the building that once served as the hospital laundry facility to make room for Donnelly’s new event center.
This is sacred ground, Bill Dunn Jr. told the crowd at the dedication. Dunn is a Donnelly trustee and co-chairman of the Transformations campaign committee.
Dunn’s mother was born at this site when it was a hospital, and her cousin was the medical chief of staff.
“This event center has always been an event center. It was an event center for life,” he said. “A lot of good things happened. People were born here. People were taken care of here.”
And good things continue to happen here through the Catholic education students receive at Donnelly College.
A series of speakers — introduced by Daniel Haake, chairman of Donnelly’s board of trustees — echoed that idea.
Instrument of good
“Donnelly College is very much at the heart of the church’s mission, and we’re so delighted that this college has been such an instrument of good for so many years in this community,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
The center speaks to a bright future, he told the crowd, not only for Donnelly but for Kansas City, Kan., and beyond.
The college will use the new event center for campus events and meetings, and Donnelly will also allow rental of the facility on a first-come, first-served basis for private and nonprofit events, thus adding another connection between the college and the community.
“This is so exciting,” said Donnelly president Steve LaNasa, noting that the college has been working toward this day for several years. “It’s an outward sign of our commitment to the community.”
Donnelly has plans for more projects in the coming years, but decided to start with this $1.5 million center, an example of “our commitment to be an anchor here in the urban core,” LaNasa said.
He recognized supporters and emphasized the support Donnelly has received along the way.
To him, facilities play an important part in providing a quality learning environment that will foster success and high expectations.
“Education is so important today,” said Henry W. Bloch, who, along with William H. Dunn Sr., served as an honorary Transformations co-chairman.
The best retirement gift he received, he said, was the scholarship program at Donnelly through the H&R Block Foundation.
“Many of the students are the first ones in their family to ever go to college,” he noted.
Donnelly’s commitment to the community — and to its students — isn’t lost on the people it serves.
Oseguera launched her higher education at Donnelly. Now planning to continue her studies at Kansas State University, she is thrilled with the experience and connections she built during her semesters at Donnelly.
As an ambassador, she helps new students learn about Donnelly and how the college is involved in the community.
“The community gives a lot to Donnelly,” said Oseguera.
She sees the center as another way for Donnelly to give back.
And she likes the modern feel it gives the campus.
The center has its own entrance and includes a catering kitchen, outdoor courtyard, and state-of-the-art technology, including a sound system and multimedia screen, among other features.
Belief in the future
Brian McKiernan, District 2 commissioner with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, attended Donnelly in the 1970s, and stressed to the crowd the idea of belief.
“If you keep believing in yourself and your students, Donnelly will be the spirit of life in our community for countless years to come,” he said.
Some recent remarks of Pope Francis, said Archbishop Naumann, seemed pertinent to the occasion.
“One of the things he said is that we often envision Jesus at the door of our hearts knocking for us to let him in,” Archbishop Naumann said. “That’s a beautiful image and true image.
“But Pope Francis said sometimes he thinks Jesus is on the other side of the door knocking and saying, ‘Let me out. Let me out into the community.’”
To the archbishop, that idea of Jesus wanting to share God’s love fit this celebration at Donnelly in a special way.
“That’s what I believe Donnelly tries to do in its own beautiful and humble way,” he said.
Father John Melnick, SSA, director of campus ministries and religious studies, assisted Archbishop Naumann with the blessing of the center and a crucifix to be displayed. Msgr. Gary Applegate served as master of ceremonies.
Following the blessing and a ribbon cutting, the crowd toured the center; Donnelly already has a number of events scheduled to take place there.
Donnelly will take a “breather” from physical construction over the next few months, but plans to turn its attention to several projects in the main tower.
The comprehensive plan will focus on projects like the chapel, library and resource space, and the front entrance.
“We’re not done,” said George Breidenthal, trustee, Transformations campaign co-chairman and 1969 Donnelly graduate. “This is only the first piece of the puzzle to make Donnelly a great place for the students who are here and the students who will be here in the future.”
He urged the crowd to “keep us in your heart.”