WYOMING — Grace Bible College is building and investing — building on its campus and investing in its future.
The Christian-based college on the southwest side has plans to build a new library and student center. Grace also is conducting a capital campaign to pay for the brick-and-mortar improvements, which include a renovation of the current library. The drive also is being held to secure some operational funds and to support scholarships for students.
The new three-story building will have 18,000 square feet. The top two levels will house the library, while the ground floor will become a student activity center. The new structure will go up just to the west of the Aldrich Athletic Center. The building project is expected to cost the college $1.7 million, nearly a million less than the original $2.5 million estimate.
“In putting out preliminary drawings to two major construction companies in the area, both came in within $40,000 of each other and were at $1.7 million for the building. We were excited to hear that,” said E. Bruce Kemper, president of Grace.
“The most basic reason of all (for the project) is there is no shelf space left in the library for new materials. We have outgrown the present facility,” said Timothy Conklin, academic dean and executive vice president of Grace.
Richard Craig of Craig & Associates, an architectural firm located downtown, is designing the project. Kemper said his drawings would likely be finished in May and then the college’s board will meet and try to determine a construction schedule.
“We’re hoping at that time that we can come to a decision as to when to break ground. I’m hoping that the finances will be such at that time that the board will say let’s get going,” said Kemper, who has been at Grace’s helm since 1991.
Besides adding a new library to the campus, the project also will give students their first activity center in the school’s history. The center will have meeting rooms, study areas and a coffee shop. Wyoming already has approved the college’s site plan for the new building.
The college also plans to turn the 30-year-old Bultema Memorial Library into a digital media center. Work on that project would get started after the new library opens.
The school’s capital campaign has entered its third year, having started in January 2000. The effort had raised slightly more than $3 million of the $5 million goal. Half of the funds have been designated for the building project, the other half for operations. Grace needs another $770,000 for the capital improvements phase of the drive.
To reach that mark, Kemper recruited Dave Grube, the school’s former athletic director, as his special assistant to help with the major gifts portion of the campaign. In addition to raising funds, Grube told the Business Journal that his mission is to make the community more aware of the college and its need for a new library. He added that he had some local business leaders willing to help him get that message out.
“We’re looking to have a business luncheon in early May and our goal is to invite these various business people to attend and introduce them to the college, see the plans and see what the need is,” said Grube, former GM of the Grand Rapids Hoops.
Because Grace felt that its students could carry their ministry into the fields of business and education, the college broadened its academic offerings about 10 years ago by entering into dual-degree programs with Cornerstone and Davenport universities. Since then, Grace has offered science and music baccalaureates, along with its Bachelor of Religious Education from the dual-track program.
“Davenport and Cornerstone offer their own baccalaureates, one is a B.S. and one is a B.A. We don’t give them two B.A.s or two B.S.s. They get the appropriate degree from one of those two schools, and then our degree for the dual-track is a B.R.E.,” explained Conklin.
Conklin added that graduates who leave Grace do so with a strong work ethic and high morals, and become adept employees who can express themselves clearly.
“We’d like the business community to know that we are a serious competitor in the education market,” he said.
Kemper explained that one of the difficulties Grace faces is that some people just don’t believe that Bible colleges can prepare students for the secular world. Even after a decade at Grace, he said he still hears that occasionally. He usually counters that myth with tributes on how his students have made major contributions in many fields throughout the world.
“Sometimes a Bible college has the image of not being a real college. We hear that once in a while and, of course, that is very frustrating to us. I’d like the business community to know that we are a viable academic institution that is producing quality grads.”