This article originally appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the Journal.
At Spring Arbor University, Homecoming Weekend serves as a time to reconnect with old classmates, spend time with new friends and remember what made your time at SAU such a formative and worthwhile experience. Students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends attend the multitude of weekend festivities with a mix of excitement and nostalgia, a sort of wistful joy. Though many of the events featured throughout Homecoming Weekend are fleeting and transitory, here and gone before the start of the week, Homecoming 2016 focused on something more tangibly enduring — a variety of new campus facilities. These new additions to SAU add an immediate value to the texture of life on campus, but they will also attract and serve new students, from athletes to nursing students and everyone in between, for decades to come.
Game, set, match
The Ron and Marvel Jones Tennis Complex is perhaps the most high-profile addition to the Spring Arbor campus. Positioned at the corner of 2nd and Ogle, next to Post Village and across the street from the Fieldhouse, the new facility is open to SAU students, staff and faculty, as well as members of the greater Jackson community. It features eight separate courts with plenty of open space from which to view both casual and competitive matches. The premier complex also elevates SAU’s tennis program to a position surpassing that of other schools in the conference, enhancing recruitment prospects with a new facility. Ron and Marvel Jones, fans of SAU tennis and lifelong players of the sport, acknowledge this beautiful complex was made possible through God’s abundant blessings.
A strong foundation
Following the 10:30 a.m. dedication of the Jones Tennis Complex came the ceremony dedicating the new E.P. Hart Circle Drive monument at 11 a.m. The monument rests near the far end of the small, circular lawn found in the middle of the drive, immediately visible to everyone. A foundational boulder, massive and oblong, is its most prominent feature. In front of the boulder runs a small section of railroad, a few feet in length. It’s this railroad that really signifies the dedication to Edward Payson Hart, founder of Spring Arbor University, and his wife, Mattie. On a snowy January day in 1864, the Harts arrived by train in Ida, Michigan, having traveled from Chicago. To commemorate their arrival and the founding of SAU, donors, faculty and President Ellis himself drove spikes into the rails, figuratively solidifying the monument as both foundation and path for SAU. E. Harold and C. Ella Munn, avid supports of the university, served as catalysts for this lasting reminder of E.P. Hart’s vision to educate biblically grounded Christian leaders. Along with the Munns, the monument was also made possible through the generosity of Bill JC ’57 and Sharon (Jopling HS ’57) Cryderman; Becky (Cramer HS ’39) Cunningham; Brent and Christy Ellis; Marston and Shar (Tomasello JC ’63, ’65) Fortress; Lloyd HS ’54, JC ’56 and Judith (Colson HS ’60) Ganton; Nancy and David White (1969–72); and Glenn White.
At noon, staff, faculty and students gathered on the basketball courts of the SAU Fieldhouse to recognize the renovations made to the men’s and women’s varsity basketball and volleyball locker rooms. The new facilities provide student athletes with a fresh space for the first time in several years. The men’s locker room renovation was made possible by the generosity of Bill and Karen (Boileau HS ’60, ’66, ’96) Bockwitz. They insisted the men’s locker room remain dedicated to Trent Allen ’89, who gave freely of his time, talent and treasure to the men’s basketball program. He passed on June 30, 2010, and was posthumously given the Faithful Servant Award by the SAU Alumni Association in Fall 2010. Faith F. Small, who passed away last June, made the women’s locker room renovation possible. She was a longtime benefactor and trustee of the university. Small touched many lives across multiple generations, and her pursuit of excellence and competitive nature were reflected throughout her partnership with SAU.
At 1 p.m., the dedication of the imaginative “Word and Image” mural was held in Sayre-Decan, just outside the offices of the English department. The mural was conceived and painted by Joel Varland ’81, professor of foundation studies and sculpture at Savannah School of Art and Design, who donated his time to paint the mural. Literary giants including Dante Alighieri, Jane Austen and Cormac McCarthy number among the fifteen writers depicted in the mural, and the department’s faculty carefully selected all of them. A masterful work, the mural portrays the alchemical outcome — the literature — produced by the souls and imaginations of the craft’s great practitioners. Photographs do little justice; it must be experienced in person.
A professor’s care
The final dedication was held at 1:30 p.m., across from the main body of campus in the Physical Plant, memorializing the state-of-the-art Jaworski Clinical Simulation Center and Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Services Clinic. The center was named for Dr. Joseph E. Jaworski ‘72, associate professor of biology emeritus. Jaworski retired in 2012 and passed in 2015. His estate made a generous bequest to the university, making possible both the center and the clinic, and also provisioning the biology department with new equipment. His career at SAU spanned 36 years, during which he was a tireless mentor to and advocate for students. The center that now bears his name will serve the newly christened undergraduate BSN program, providing nursing students with a space in which to complete a portion of their clinical hours. Additionally, the physical therapy clinic will provide its services to both Spring Arbor University and the surrounding community. Jaworski would be pleased to know how many people will benefit from his loving generosity in the decades to come. These new facilities and memorials add to the already rich tapestry of culture and opportunity available to students of Spring Arbor University. We are incredibly grateful to those donors who have made these, and every, addition to SAU a reality.