High school world history came alive for me when the teacher brought in films featuring Walter Cronkite who hosted reenactments of historical events in the series, “You Are There.” The powerful visual images and the sounds helped me to better understand the few scant textbook paragraphs describing that major world event. I thought of “You Are There” when a major historical and memorable event took place on our campus on Tuesday, September 25.
In many respects it was a typical day in North Texas on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University, the sun was shining brightly, students and faculty were crisscrossing the campus between classes. But something was different, something was very different.
A little over three years ago, the growth in our nursing program became evident. Nursing simulation training, skills lab training, classrooms, and faculty offices were all in separate buildings and the technology was beginning to lack the grade needed to prepare nurses for the world in which we live. Meetings were held with our architect who listened to our ideas, needs, desires and then translated these concepts to physical spaces. Architectural plans were formulated and projected costs were estimated. With the Board of Trustees approving the project, a major capital campaign was designed and fundraising began. The goal was to raise $16,000,000 and be debt free by the time we had our open house.
This was a journey of faith and hard work. The vision was clear, the costs were set, and the case statement was finalized. Over time, the project was shared with our community, alumni, and friends. A successful grant proposal to the Mabee Foundation yielded a $1,000,000 challenge gift. Their gift was conditional on us raising $8,000,000 by April 15, 2016. Three weeks prior to this deadline we only had $3,800,000 raised. How were we going to raise $4,200,000 within 21 days?
During a student assembly we divided into small groups and prayed that God would open His storehouse to miraculously let the blessings flow so we could meet this deadline. Within a few days, I had a call from a donor with whom I had been working and she was now ready to make a contribution. $250,000! A visit was made to a donor from out of town. $1,000,000! A call came in from a corporate office. $2,000,000! Eight days before the deadline, I left my seat at a banquet to take a call. $500,000. A donor came by to make a $10,000 contribution, but upon leaving and reading more about the project, they called back and said, we want to make our gift $25,000! I was asked to go and pick up a check. $50,000! God answered our prayers; $8,035,390 was posted in our account on April 15, 2016. The challenge had been met and the Mabee Foundation provided $1,000,000.
Since April 2016, we have had large generous donations totaling $3,000,000, $1,000,000, and $900,000. Hundreds of others have also provided donations to name rooms and spaces in the building. Our youngest donor was 4-year old Isaiah. After listening in on his mom and dad’s conversation regarding the project, he decided to break into his piggy bank and give his $24. Isaiah inspired other donors to give, in effect multiplying his gift.
The dream and vision of a new nursing and administration building became a reality on September 25. The ribbon was cut and over 500 people enjoyed the open house event. This building will benefit Johnson County as many local students will be able earn a Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree while living at home. This is a day that many of us will never forget.
Walter Cronkite would often end his episodes this way, "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times and you were there." This day has certainly altered and illuminated our times as we will continue to provide excellent nursing education, but now within a high quality, high-tech facility.
I am deeply thankful for the generosity of our community, alumni, and friends!
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.