Joined by Fort Wayne’s mayor and other community representatives, the University of Saint Francis officially kicked off renovations for USF’s downtown campus today at 826 Ewing Street, site of the former Chamber of Commerce building. Attended by 250 people, the 9-10 a.m. “Renovation Celebration” included demolition of a ceremonial wall and a surprise presentation of the Sagamore of the Wabash award to USF’s President, Sister M. Elise Kriss.
On hand to knock down the wall were City of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry; University of Saint Francis President Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF; USF Busse EPIC student and athlete Brad Hartman; USF Music Technology student Rachel Reinking; USF Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Niezer; Design Collaborative partner and architect Ron Dick; Tonn and Blank Construction President John Gilmore—and of course, USF mascot Johnny Cougar. When renovated, the former Chamber building will be home to the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership and USF’s new project-based learning program, Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts (META). In addition, four floors of the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center’s west tower, will house the university’s Music Technology program.
Opening the ceremony, President Kriss noted that the renovations were beginning in 2015, USF’s 125th anniversary year. She said, “Two city treasures, the former Chamber building and the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center, begin their transformation as unique spaces for higher education. These spaces will be filled with students beginning with fall 2016 classes.”
Mayor Henry then addressed the crowd. Commenting on the community significance of Fort Wayne’s first downtown university. The Mayor then shared an official city proclamation naming May 6, 2015 as the University of Saint Francis Downtown Campus Renovation Day.
Students Hartman and Reinking also spoke to the audience, followed by USF board chairman Niezer, who surprised all in attendance by announcing that Sr. M. Elise Kriss had been named a Sagamore of the Wabash in recognition of her strong institutional leadership and support of the community, region and state. In his remarks about Sister Elise, Niezer said, “During your time at the university, your commitment to the growth of the Fort Wayne area and the entire State of Indiana has created tremendous opportunities [not only] for your students but also for the businesses and organizations with which the university partners.”
Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to take a guided tour of the existing spaces in the former Chamber building and view floor plans for the renovations, which will include a finance lab, six classrooms, collaborative and study spaces, a food bar, cyber lounge, offices and conference rooms. Guided tours and floor plans were also available for the four floors of the west tower of the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center that will include recording and teaching studios, mixing and editing rooms, practice rooms, rehearsal rooms, a music library, classrooms and other space. It was noted that the proximity of the performing arts center’s 2,000-seat auditorium will provide a highly collaborative learning space for the Music Technology program, as well as USF’s new Dance program established in cooperation with the Fort Wayne Ballet Conservatory.