Photos: Artist Drawings; Will and Janice Wilkins
As crews work to take core samples where two new buildings will rise on the HSU campus, faculty members in the Irvin School of Education at Hardin-Simmons University are sculpting plans for the many uses of the transformative new facilities.
The largest gift thus far in Hardin-Simmons University’s 122-year history, $16 million from Will and Janice Wilkins of Dallas, Texas, has allowed plans to go forward to build the first of many planned improvements to the HSU campus.
The Wilkins Wellness Center and the Christopher Education Building are part of the university’s TRANSFORMATION 2020 fundraising campaign to raise $60 million for the first phase of campus improvements.
Dr. Lanny Hall, HSU president, says about half of the first phase goal has already been raised as the capital campaign goes public. Hall and other university officials hope to achieve the $60 million goal by 2016, “We hope within the next three years — HSU’s 125th birthday — we will raise an unprecedented amount of money to meet our needs for the future,” says Hall.
The new state-of-the-art Wilkins Wellness Center will be constructed where Streich Tennis Center and Marston Gym are now located. This center will include more than 50,000 square feet of academic, recreational, fitness and wellness facilities.
The complex, which includes indoor and outdoor improvements, will boast two basketball courts for academic and intramural use; a walking track; new aerobic and cardio exercise equipment and weight-lifting machines; a 5,000 square foot lap pool; and an adjoining 10,000 square foot deck. The facility will also include locker rooms, faculty and staff offices, a juice bar, and a rock climbing wall.
“Prospective students and parents will be impressed by the look of the wellness center and the activities going on within the building, says David Stuckey, head of the Department of Fitness and Sport Sciences, and director of athletic training. “Improved student recreation and the ability of the building to act as a social hub for campus should make students want to stay at HSU.”
While architects continue to refine the aesthetics of the Wilkins Wellness Center, Dr. Pam Williford, dean of the Irvin School of Education, and her faculty are fine-tuning a vision for the uses of the facility.
The Irvin School of education encompasses several undergraduate programs and graduate programs that will utilize the wellness facility -- athletic training and sports medicine, and fitness and sports sciences on the undergraduate side. Graduate programs consist of coaching and sport science, exercise science, kinesiology, recreational management, sports ministry, and business sports management.
“For the students in the Irvin School of Education, state-of-the-art classrooms will provide undergraduate and graduate students up-to-date facilities that will enhance programs, and classrooms will be equipped with technology that supports learning in the respective fields of study,” says Williford.
State-of-the-art fitness facility will provide much needed space for classroom learning opportunities for students in the Department of Fitness and Sport Sciences. It will also meet the fitness and wellness needs of the HSU student body, faculty, and staff.
Human Performance Laboratory
A high-tech human performance lab will provide equipment essential to enhancing both the undergraduate and graduate requirements for professionals entering the workforce in medical, wellness, and fitness facilities.
Stuckey says the new human performance laboratory will provide increased opportunities for each of our students, enhancing the science-related courses. He also points to a new athletic training skills laboratory that will allow for improved instruction for students during the laboratory portions of AT courses.
Glassed in space on the second floor of the Wilkins Wellness Center will overlook the football playing field. Williford says, this space will provide a beautiful breath-taking setting for receptions, dinners, and numerous other special events hosted on the HSU campus.
The Wilkins Wellness Center will provide ample office space that is centrally located to facilitate professional collaboration and accessibility for students.
“Our faculty enjoys opportunities to dialogue informally with students, assist with their academics, and provide sound counsel,” says Williford. “Current office spaces are simply not conducive to those kinds of faculty-student interfaces. The new office spaces will be easily accessible to students; as a result, I anticipate the professional dialogue that occurs with student-faculty relationships will be enhanced.”
New gymnasiums will increase student accessibility for recreational purposes. Williford says, “HSU faculty, staff, and students have worked and organized in wonderfully cooperative and collaborative ways to meet all the needs of athletics, student recreation, and academic needs. The Wilkins Wellness Center facilities will relieve many of the scheduling dilemmas for those who plan academic and recreational programs for students.”
The new Aquatics Center will be particularly useful for aquatics instruction for HSU students. Corrie Reed, instructor of fitness and sport sciences says she is excited about the potential improvements to aquatics programming with the addition of the new Natatorium in the Wilkins Wellness Center.
“Potentially, more offerings of Aquatic certification courses could be added due to the size of the new Natatorium. Aquatic exercise courses could be offered more frequently and to a larger population,” says Reed.
“For our students, I hope to expose them to the unique operating and management opportunities that come with overseeing a Natatorium so that they have the opportunity to use the facility as not just a place to recreate, but a place of learning as well.
Williford points out that the facility’s space will also help fulfill several community needs like the summer Learn to Swim Program for community children and she says the additional gymnasiums in the Wellness Center will allow HSU to better facilitate the high school Polk Key City Basketball Tournament and other similar events.
Williford contends that the open, well-designed and designated student spaces throughout the new building will provide all HSU students with numerous gathering places for studying, recreating, and improving overall general wellness.
“The beauty afforded by this new building will invite students to enter and find quiet places to study, a myriad of recreation opportunities during spare time, small group gathering/fellowship opportunities, and unique and plentiful fitness opportunities for general well-being,” she says.
Professor of fitness and sport sciences and director of the human performance lab, Dr. Chuck Ruot, echoes Williford’s praises of the facility, “I am excited about the possibilities that exist to enhance the learning experiences for students majoring in fitness and sports sciences. In addition to the sports sciences major and minor courses, students in the Wellness for Life and activity classes will use the wellness center,” says Ruot.
“Plus, I am personally excited about all students, faculty, and staff having access to a wonderful facility to enable their pursuit of wellness,” says Ruot. “There will be multiple recreational and fitness activities possible in the gymnasium, cardio and resistance equipment areas, the aquatics natatorium, and the indoor track and rock climbing wall.”
Williford heartily agrees, “The general education wellness requirements for all HSU students will be broadened with the availability of new wellness/fitness facilities.”
“We are grateful to the Wilkins’ family for this extraordinary gift that makes this building possible,” says Stuckey. “The Wellness Center will have facilities that will be used by the entire HSU community and will provide many opportunities to expand both academic and student life programming.”