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Historic day for DWU: $11.5 million Health Sciences Center dedicated

The Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell.1 / 2
Four major donors toward the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center conclude the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at Dakota Wesleyan University's campus in Mitchell. From left to right are Fritz Corrigan, Glenda Corrigan, Donna Christen and Paul Christen. Each couple donated $5 million to the project. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

The faces Glenda Corrigan saw Thursday afternoon were heartwarming.

During a dedication ceremony at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, students, faculty, alumni and supporters gathered around the new $11.5 million building with Corrigan’s name near its peak.

The Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center was officially christened.

“I don’t think they could have done better,” said Corrigan, a 1964 graduate of DWU. “This building is just awesome.”

Corrigan and her husband, Fritz, were two of the major donors toward the construction of the building, a four-story, 48,000-square-foot structure that contains chemistry, biology and physics labs; two undergraduate research labs equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for student use; four nursing simulation labs; classrooms for nursing, athletic training, the sciences and mathematics; and faculty offices.

“All these young people going in here now, we didn’t realize it but this is going to impact a lot of their lives,” Fritz Corrigan said as he dodged students weaving in and out of the building’s doors. “That’s what this is about.”

Dakota Wesleyan broke ground on the project Sept. 30, 2011. Although it was already being used when classes started Monday, Thursday’s ribbon cutting was the building’s formal dedication.

The Corrigans and DWU graduates Paul and Donna Christen each gifted $5 million toward the building, the biggest donations in school history. The foursome snipped a ribbon in front of about 600 people to wrap up an hour-long dedication. DWU President Amy Novak said about 100 of those in attendance were donors to the project.

Novak said the structure holds 13 classrooms and has 414 windowpanes. Large stairwell windows reveal an expansive view of Mitchell. From the top floor, landmarks such as Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, Holy Family Catholic Church and the Farmers Alliance grain elevator are visible.

Novak is optimistic about the impact the building will have on Mitchell and the region.

“This is a dream come true,” Novak said. “To see the kids walk through those doors and walk into the classes and see this vision come to fruition, it’s already creating a transformation, and I can only imagine the transformation that will continue.”

The building will be the new home for the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.

“Our vision is seeing thousands of young, eager students walking through these doors over the next decade,” said Paul Christen, a 1950 DWU graduate and Donna’s husband. “They’ll be leaving with a quality education and ready to serve in the fields of health, fitness and science. The Corrigan building will help change the lives of these students.”

Within the facility and college will be the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing, named for the late Arlene Gates, a memorial made possible by her husband, Ron Gates, of Mitchell. Before the dedication for the entire building, there was a ceremony for the Gates Department on the building’s third floor. The family of Arlene Gates was also described as a major donor.

The afternoon ceremony started at the Sherman Center on DWU’s campus and eventually moved in front of the Corrigan Center. The indoor ceremony included prayer, a choir and a church-like service influenced by the university’s Methodist affiliation.

Bishop Bruce Ough started his sermon by asking all in attendance, “Don’t you love it when a dream and a plan come together?”

“Today, we’re celebrating the triumph of God’s unlimited imagination,” he added.

Mark Puetz, of Puetz Corp., attended Thursday’s ceremony and was pleased with the project’s final outcome. The Mitchell-based company designed, managed and constructed the project, with the help of some sub-contractors.

“I think the best part of being a part of the design and construction process is you have all these thought processes about what you envision this space to look like,” Puetz said. “Now you actually see it. It’s pretty amazing.”