The W.R. and Yvonne Robbins Alumni & Endowment Center moved a step closer to reality today when dignitaries symbolically turned shovelfuls of earth at the construction site near Gross Memorial Coliseum on the far west side of campus.
Billed as "a place to call home" for Fort Hays State University's alumni and friends, the new center will house the Alumni and Endowment Associations and serve as a gathering place for many activities. In addition to graduates, the Robbins Center will welcome all friends of the university.
Virgil Scott, president and CEO of the FHSU Endowment Association, said, "The support of alumni and friends has been overwhelming for this project. This is their building. Our Board of Trustees is excited about the integral role the center will play in maturing relationships with supporters of the university. Construction will start in May and be completed in one year. We will move into the Robbins Center in June 2007, and the official grand opening will be scheduled sometime in September 2007."
The Robbins Center has been in the works since fund raising began during the Centennial Campaign of 2002. Bill and Yvonne Robbins are owners of the Farmers Bank in Great Bend. Bill Robbins, a former chair of the Endowment Association Board of Trustees, chaired the campaign, which easily surpassed its goal of $30 million for a variety of programs and enhancements for the university.
"Anything worth having is worth working for," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said during the ceremony. "We can thank Bill and Yvonne Robbins and the many other individuals whose generosity will soon become evident in bricks and mortar."
"The turning of that first spade of dirt will begin the construction of this needed facility, allowing the university to continue growing," Bill Robbins said. "On behalf of myself, the Centennial Committee and the university, I want to thank the 700 investors who have caught the vision."
The grandson of Bill and Yvonne Robbins, 11-year-old Hunter Harrison, also spoke during the ceremony. "Someday I will be looking for a college to go to," he said. "I am sure I would like to go to a college that has a cool building like this one to use. I'm proud of my grandparents and the other people who gave money. I will be excited to see it built, and I might even come up to check on it."
A building committee that included representatives from the Alumni and Endowment Associations recommended Horst, Terrill & Karst Architects of Topeka, and reviewed the design and layout of the building. The Topeka architectural firm also designed the award-winning Tomanek Hall at FHSU.
President Hammond said the Robbins Center would cost a total of $5.6 million. "We have accepted donations and pledges for all but the last couple hundred thousand dollars, so we can now move forward confidently with construction," he said.
"We were thrilled to take part in this momentous occasion," said Debra Prideaux, FHSU executive alumni director. "Not only will the Robbins Center serve as the first point of contact for alumni and friends visiting Fort Hays State, but it will also be a place called home where Tigers worldwide will want to come and spend time together. It will greatly enhance our ability to provide programs and services to the entire FHSU community."
The site for the Robbins Center was made possible by a land swap between the university and the Endowment Association, with approval from the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Legislature. The FHSU Endowment Association owns the 3.2-acre site and also will be the owner of the building.
The 27,500-square-foot Robbins Center will have two stories and a basement. The main floor will house Alumni Association offices, and the second floor will house Endowment Association offices. A reception foyer will open to a second-floor balcony. The building will have a 3,000-square-foot multi-purpose room with a full-service catering kitchen that can facilitate meetings and banquets of up to 250 people; a 625-square-foot boardroom and two conference rooms for meetings of the Alumni and Endowment boards and committees; a business center for visitors; and a communication room for ongoing telemarketing efforts in the basement.
Outside, there will be a paved plaza area with a garden terrace and a pergola.
A prominent feature of the Robbins Center will be the Stehno Family Room, named in honor of Dr. Edward H. "Ed" Stehno, professor emeritus of educational administration and counseling, and his wife, Donna.
Another attraction in the new building will be a 1,200-square-foot art gallery. Collections for the gallery include the 650 original artworks of the celebrated Kansas Postcard Series that were donated to FHSU by the Association of Community Arts Agencies of Kansas.
"The Robbins Center will be a facility that enhances the quality of life for the two associations, the university and its students," President Hammond said. "The new Robbins Center will greatly enhance the service that our two associations can provide for the university."