Celebrating 5 years of education in the Bishop Gerber Science Center

Nov 18, 2022
Bishop Gerber Science Center open house

“Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”

Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general

On Nov. 17, Newman University donors, alumni, faculty, staff and current students gathered to celebrate the first five years of the state-of-the-art Bishop Gerber Science Center on campus during an open house event.

Thursday evening marked the first open house held since the Bishop Gerber Science Center opened for learning in August 2017. 

Conni Mansaw, Newman University senior development officer
Conni Mansaw

Conni Mansaw, senior development officer, said it was the perfect time to invite donors back to campus to experience the progress of the building, learn program updates and partake in tours to see the latest learning labs students have access to.

Sharing the building’s growth with donors in the form of cards and photos is beneficial in its own way, however, there is something extra special about having donors “see their efforts live and in living color,” Mansaw said.

“We’ve been blessed to have this building, and this event was an opportunity to provide a thank you to our dedicated donors,” she added. “For our phenomenal Newman supporters to actually come into our campus home and see what their efforts have produced will be beneficial both now and moving forward for our future donor family.”

Donors, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Bishop Gerber Science Center for the open house event Nov. 17.
Donors, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Bishop Gerber Science Center for the open house event Nov. 17.

A milestone in the history of Newman University

Since the Bishop Gerber Science Center opened, 899 classes have been taught in the building and 593 students have graduated from Newman with a degree in sciences or health sciences.

“While Sacred Heart Hall is the heart and soul of Newman because of its history and the centrality of our Catholic identity there, the Bishop Gerber Science Center has become the modern showcase of what the best in contemporary university science education can be,” said Newman President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH.

Students use classrooms and collaborative spaces in Bishop Gerber on a daily basis, and Jagger said it is truly the “most beloved academic space on campus.”

President Kathleen Jagger speaks to attendees of the open house event.
President Kathleen Jagger speaks to attendees of the open house event.

“What is happening in this building is changing the lives of students, equipping them for future success and empowering them to be change agents in their professions, communities, families and churches,” Jagger added. “Thank you all for making this Bishop Gerber Science Center what it is today.”

The appreciation reception for donors drew several key stakeholders in the building’s presence on campus, including Larry Steckline and Joan Felts, RN, Ph.D., among others.

In honor of Larry Steckline’s longtime friend

Steckline, a longtime donor of Newman, is a prominent Kansas broadcasting entrepreneur. He worked several years as a radio and television personality and is the owner of Steckline Communications, formerly known as the Mid-Kansas Ag Network. He and his wife donated the historical display case on the main floor of the Bishop Gerber Science Center that pays tribute to the building’s namesake. 

Steckline’s friendship with the late Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber played an enormous part in inspiring him to donate to the building.

(From left to right) President Kathleen Jagger, Sister Tarcisia Roths, ASC, and Larry Steckline stand in front of the display case that Steckline and his wife donated in the Bishop Gerber Science Center.

“He was the greatest friend that I had for what felt like a hundred years, and I miss him tonight,” Steckline said during the open house. “I became involved with Newman, not only because of Bishop Gerber, but also because of Sister Tarcisia.”

Many of the ASC sisters supported Steckline during what he described as a “terrible time in my life,” when his wife, Wah-leeta, died in a tragic farming accident.

Sister Tarcisia Roths was one of the first nuns I was introduced to, and if you know her very well, you get hooked pretty quick,” Steckline said with a smile. 

The open house event was the first time Steckline visited the building since its inauguration. Being back in the 5-year-old educational space “feels pretty good,” he said.

“I feel very comfortable looking at all of this, seeing the photos of our good friend Bishop Gerber,” Steckline added. “It just gives you a calm feeling inside that you were involved, that you’d made some sort of a difference.”

It just gives you a calm feeling inside that you were involved, that you’d made some sort of a difference.

Larry Steckline

A Newman nursing program founder

Felts, former dean of the Newman School of Nursing and Allied Health, played a crucial role in developing the Newman nursing program. In her 28 years of work with the university, she helped the nursing program grow in numbers, stature and respect among medical professionals. She received the Cardinal Newman Medal in 2012 for her instrumental work in the growth and development of the university.

When asked what inspired her to return to attend the open house event at the Bishop Gerber Science Center, Felts said, excitedly: “I just wanted to see it again.”

“The building is magnificent,” Felts said. “But the important thing is that the faculty and students do the things that they do best, and that’s teaching and learning.”

Her advice to students who take classes in the Bishop Gerber Science Center is to “study and have fun doing it. Take advantage of the camaraderie that’s here with the faculty and with each other.”

Supporting the mission of Newman University

Bob Beumer, vice president for institutional advancement, emphasized that it’s not just the building that plays an integral role in the student experience, but also the community of healthcare partners who equip students with hands-on, real-world training to use as future professionals. 

“Donors have provided the extras that have put us over the top when it comes to teaching our science and healthcare students, and for that, we are eternally grateful,” Beumer said.

Bob Beumer, vice president of institutional advancement
Bob Beumer, vice president of institutional advancement

Stewardship of gifts is an essential part of philanthropy, and the open house event gave Newman the chance to showcase exactly how donor gifts are being used.

Beumer added, “By showing donors their gifts in action, hopefully, we will continue to build on those trusting relationships.”

“Our staff, faculty and students are fortunate to have such great donors who are providing in their educational efforts,” Mansaw concluded. “It’s our hope that they will eventually come back and pay it forward for students who will come after them.”

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