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Bethel receives Mabee challenge grant for major building renovation

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla., has awarded Bethel College a $725,000 challenge grant for renovation of Old Science Hall into the Academic Center.

To receive the grant, Bethel College must raise an additional $921,424 by April 2011. The purpose of a challenge grant is to provide incentive for enlisting the support of a broad base of donors.

Old Science Hall, constructed in 1925, is the second oldest building on campus after the Administration Building. It currently sees limited use, housing mathematics faculty offices and classrooms and the campus computer labs as well as Institutional Communications and Information and Media Services (IMS) offices.

The major renovation of the building will result in a facility that accommodates, in addition to mathematics, the departments of Bible and religion, business, history, nursing, social work and teacher education – including faculty offices, classrooms, labs, seminar and conference rooms, student and faculty lounges, the student health center, nursing simulation classrooms, nursing practice and post-op rooms – along with an elevator, atrium and accessible restrooms.

The latter three features will add 11,475 square feet to the 27,240-square-foot structure and will bring the building into ADA compliance. Plans also include exterior groundwork for accessibility and landscaping, and a 45-space parking lot.

In addition, renovation will bring cost savings in utilities and maintenance. The building’s new roof, windows, walls, lighting and floor coverings will all be green, and the atrium’s natural lighting will result in additional energy efficiency.

College officials expect renovation and construction to begin by June 2011.

“Engineers assure us that the former science building is solid and that it would be a shame to demolish it,” said Sondra Bandy Koontz, vice president of advancement. “Alumni have a deep affection for the Collegiate Gothic building and enthusiastically wish to preserve it for future generations of students.

“The reason students give most often for attending Bethel College is ‘academic reputation,’” added Koontz, “and one of Bethel’s core values is Scholarship. It is important that the college’s academic facilities reflect high standards.”

“This grand, beautiful building will provide a wonderful setting for the interactive learning of students and faculty that characterizes a Bethel College education,” said John Sheriff, Bethel interim president. “I am especially happy for the faculty who will be moving into the new Academic Center, for they have been anticipating the improved work space for some time.”

In past years, Bethel has received five other Mabee Foundation challenge grants. The most recent was a $550,000 challenge grant for the new sports stadium complex, completed in 2005.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges profiled in Colleges of Distinction 2009-10. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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