Consequential construction — Bishop Gerber Science Center

Tom Dondlinger, president of Dondlinger Construction, has spent many hours of his life on the Newman University campus, the longest time being when he was a student from 1968-1972. Most recently, however, he’s spent time on campus to oversee the construction of the Bishop Gerber Science Center.

Tom and the Dondlinger family have deep roots at Newman, so taking on the largest construction project in Newman history had great sentimental value for the construction company.

Tom Dondlinger speaking at Bishop Gerber Science Center dedication dinner

Not only do Tom and the Dondlinger family have deep ties to Newman University but also to Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber. When Bishop Gerber was a seminarian, he worked for Dondlinger Construction in the summers to help pay for his schooling. He also served as a parish pastor at the Dondlingers' church, Blessed Sacrament Church.

“It was an honor and privilege to build for my alma mater and the icing on the cake was a beautiful building to be named for our beloved Bishop Gerber,” said Dondlinger.

In the words of J.V. Johnston, vice president for university advancement, “Tom Dondlinger had a little pressure on him building the most expensive structure in the history of his alma mater and named for his former bishop. But as the sportscasters say, he and his team knocked it out of the park.”

This project had a total of 145 construction workers, carpenters, masons, electricians and more on site. Dondlinger made a point to utilize local vendors when possible.

“It not only provides needed jobs in the area but is a source of pride and gives a feeling of ownership to the owners and employees of these companies. For the local companies and their owners, Newman will be their family for life.”

Dondlinger Construction compiled some fun facts about the Bishop Gerber Science Center and read them during the dedication dinner that took place on Sept. 21. These fun facts were:

  • The amount of concrete poured on the project would pave a 4-foot wide sidewalk from the Newman University campus to Rock Road.
  • If you laid each brick end-to-end it would stretch from NU campus to Augusta, Kansas.
  • The amount of electrical wire in BGSC will stretch from NU campus to Emporia, Kansas. It would wrap around the building 434 times.
  • The weight of the structural steel in the building equals 150 hippopotamuses.
  • And on Tom Dondlinger’s list, he made sure to add “if you measure the smiles on the faculty, staff and students … you couldn’t find a tape measure long enough.”

Information, pictures and video from the Bishop Gerber Science Center dedication dinner can be found here.

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