Benedictine University at Mesa officially became the first four-year Catholic university campus in Arizona on Tuesday as scores of guests, including new students, educators, spiritual leaders and city and University representatives, attended the blessing and ribbon-cutting of Gillett Hall, Benedictine’s academic building in downtown Mesa.
“Knowing that the vision that Mayor (Scott) Smith and the City of Mesa had, and the faith they placed in Benedictine to bring our traditions and values-centered, faith-based education to the 500,000 Catholics in Maricopa County and beyond, has finally come to pass is truly remarkable,” said Charles Gregory, executive vice president at Benedictine University. “It speaks to the commitment of all those who worked so hard to make it happen.”
Gillett Hall is named in honor of Willis Gillett, chair of the Benedictine University Board of Trustees. It has capacity for nine classrooms, including an interactive classroom with non-traditional, flexible furniture, a nutrition lab featuring kitchenettes with residential appliances, a computer lab, chapel, a “Spirit Store” which offers Benedictine merchandise, a library center and a community room.
The former Southside Hospital building at 225 E. Main St., which underwent a $10 million, yearlong renovation, was blessed by Diocese of Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in keeping with Catholic and Benedictine tradition.
"It's fitting that this initiative springs forth from the very heart of the City of Mesa,” Olmsted said. “It shows the complementarity that can take place that is truly desirable between the church and the city, between good citizenship and lively faith.
“Secular pursuits and religious pursuits need not be in contradiction with one another,” he added. “I am confident that God will enrich the academic and cultural pursuits of the students and faculty who will be part of this University and at the same time will enrich the city, this community and this culture.”
Tuesday’s ceremony was the culmination of a process that began nearly two years ago when Benedictine responded to the City of Mesa’s innovative efforts to attract a distinguished university that would help revitalize its downtown area while giving the city and area residents something it lacked.
Benedictine University, based in Lisle, Ill., just outside of Chicago, answered the call, becoming the first university invited to establish a branch campus in Mesa. After earning approval to operate in Arizona and with the blessing of the Diocese of Phoenix, the Catholic university officially opened its doors to business in downtown Mesa in fall 2012 with its Services Center at 51 E. Main St.
"We are excited to be here and our goal is to become Mesa's university," said Benedictine University President William J. Carroll, Ph.D. "We are starting with a few classes with some excited students, and you will see great things happening in the near future."
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and District 4 Councilmember Chris Glover, who have been large supporters of bringing a Benedictine branch campus to Mesa, also attended and believe Benedictine will be a boon for the Mesa community.
"When we set out on this vision, this journey, we were looking for partners that would change our community,” Smith said. “It was all about building a better Mesa. And as we looked around and we sent out inquiries and we got responses, we were so fortunate to have institutions such as Benedictine not only answer but get excited about what could happen in Mesa."
For more than 125 years, Benedictine University has provided a values-based, renowned liberal arts education and the essential values and tools that create leaders within the community. Benedictine University at Mesa offers a private, faith-based education grounded in history, heritage and Catholic tradition.
Classes begin September 3 with degree offerings that include a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Bachelor of Arts in Theology, Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Bachelor of Business Administration in Management and Organizational Behavior, in addition to a minor in Religious Studies.
"It's an academic's dream to begin at the ground floor of something so special and build and prepare students for the workforce," said Michael Carroll, Ph.D., Mesa branch campus president. "Our students are going to come into class and they are going to apply, they are going to problem-solve and critically think. Every single classroom is issue-based or problem-based. We have heard from students that their best learning takes places in labs. Everyone one of our classrooms will be a learning lab."
For more information about Benedictine University at Mesa, please contact the Services Center at (602) 888-5500, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ben.edu/mesa.
Benedictine University at Mesa is a branch campus of Benedictine University, an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the third consecutive year in 2013. Classes at Benedictine University at Mesa begin in fall 2013.