Tom Benson Jesuit Center construction plans announced

The university has reached the halfway mark of its construction budget for the Tom Benson Jesuit Center.

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Tom Benson Jesuit Center construction plans announced

Sarah-Anne Smurlick and Mark Robinson

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When Loyola entered the public stage of its fundraising campaign earlier this month, the administration began discussing construction plans for the Tom Benson Jesuit Center.

The ultimate goal of the Faith in the Future campaign, launched on Oct. 9, is to raise $100 million for the university. That includes the construction costs for the center, which will house a 250-seat chapel, classrooms, seminar rooms, offices and meeting rooms.

On Sept. 23, 2010, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson donated $8 million to renovate the building that once held the Monroe Library. The university is currently $8 million short of the $16 million needed to begin construction.

Since the Tom Benson Jesuit Center is a religious building, the university cannot rely on federal grants to build it.

Bill Bishop, vice president for institutional advancement, estimates that the full amount for the Faith in the Future campaign can be raised prior to the end of 2017.

“The priorities of this campaign are heavily weighted toward capital projects that provide students with the facilities they deserve, are earmarks of a very modern university and are reflective of Loyola’s Jesuit Catholic mission,” Bishop said.

Both the strategic and master plans for the university suggested that a Jesuit Center was needed.

Kurt Bindewald, Director of the University of Ministry and Associate Director of Mission and Ministry, said that mission and identity programs would be enhanced with the construction of the new building, which will have three stories.

The building is also being very intentionally designed to invite students to travel through it to and from class.

“Truly our Catholic and Jesuit identity, which is central to our mission, will literally be central to the campus as well because it is right there in the middle,” Bindewald said.

The building has been shuttered since 1999, but little progress has been made toward its remodeling since then.

Alfred Lorenz, a former mass communication professor, began teaching at Loyola in 1981. He said he remembers the former library when it was fully functional, and said he doesn’t understand why it has taken so long for the university to do anything with it.

“I thought it would get moving and be done,” Lorenz said.

Now, halfway to the building’s monetary goal, members of the mission and ministry department are excited about what will become their new space.

When completed, the center will house the entire mission and ministry department, Joseph Deegan, associate chaplain for service and justice, said.

“In the future, I think it will help the university in the sense that it will be a very visible presence for the Jesuit mission and identity on campus,” Deegan said. “Right now, our offices are dispersed all across campus. Having the center will put, in one logical place, all of these related offices.”

For Deegan, specifically, the center means getting out of the basement of the Dana Center.

“Not a lot of people have been down here or really use it. It’s out of the way. It’s in a basement,” Deegan said. “It’ll make our programs more accessible to the students. Having a really great environment for our students to be in will really make our programs successful.”

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