BISMARCK, ND — Banners, bands, balloons, and one giant backhoe were some of the exciting sights and sounds that greeted hundreds of people on hand to celebrate and commemorate the start of construction on the newly named Lumen Vitae University Center worth $21.75 million.

President Monsignor James Shea announces campus center name as the Lumen Vitae University Center

President Monsignor James Shea announces campus center name as the Lumen Vitae University Center

University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea made the announcement at today’s press conference celebrating the efforts of many donors, students, faculty and friends who have donated time, money and resources into what will become the new state-of-the-art campus center.

President Monsignor James Shea thanks students, honored guests and media for attending before giving details of the new Lumen Vitae University Center

President Monsignor James Shea thanks students, honored guests and media for attending before giving details of the new Lumen Vitae University Center

“This special place — at the heart of campus — will be a hub for activity where our students, faculty, staff and friends come for fellowship, food, fun and study,” said Shea. “This space will be bursting with a rich and vibrant lumen vitae, or ‘light of life,’ as our students on campus, and also the Bismarck-Mandan community, gather here for generations to come.”

The two-story Lumen Vitae University Center repurposes the current Fieldhouse and connects it to the McDowell Activity Center (MAC) that will also be renovated. This 80,000-square-foot structure features a new “Founders Hall” with one of the grandest views in all of North Dakota overlooking the Missouri River Valley and accommodating over 600 dinner guests for banquet or up to 1100 for conferences or corporate and private meetings. Students cross “Main Street” from Founders Hall into one of the country’s only 24/7 dining centers. Other amenities include an American Bank Center branch, book and retail store, individual conference rooms, student lounges, coffee shop, clinic, Hall of Fame concourse and much more.

Vice President Jerome Richter holds up Miniature Hardhats for people to take as a momento of this special day

Vice President Jerome Richter holds up Miniature Hardhats for people to take as a momento of this special day

“This support is a community effort that spans far and wide — from Bismarck and The Bakken, to the Red River Valley and across the country,” stated Jerome Richter, vice president for the Office of Public Affairs and the person spearheading fundraising for the $272 million Vision 2030 Capital Campaign. “To date, over $44 million of the $96 million Phase One goal has been raised.”

Sister Nancy Miller, Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery Breaks Ground with historic shovel.

Sister Nancy Miller, Prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery Breaks Ground with historic shovel.

Shea; Sister Nancy Miller, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery; Liv Stromme, University of Mary student body president; and Dan Butler, chairman of the Board of Trustees, all took part in the groundbreaking. Miller, representing Mary’s founders, made the initial ceremonial dig with a Monastery shovel that has been part of every groundbreaking event in their history as sponsors. Butler then proceeded to man the backhoe from Butler Machinery and dig an even bigger hole.

“Although this is just one piece to our Vision 2030 campaign — it’s an iconic piece to the growth of this university and symbolic of who we are as Christians and people of the Northern Plains, because we cherish hospitality and community as core values of our being,” stated Butler, president of Butler Machinery headquartered in Fargo. “This will be a ‘crown jewel’ for not only the students who come here from around the world, but those who are fortunate to experience and witness all the educational, faith and cultural events on campus.”

Dan Butler, president of Butler Machinery and University of Mary alumnus, moves dirt from inside the backhoe.

Dan Butler, president of Butler Machinery and University of Mary alumnus, moves dirt from inside the backhoe.

With the earth moving on the Lumen Vitae University Center, there will be three construction projects going simultaneously on campus. That includes a new female residence hall that is nearly completed and will open this August, the new fieldhouse that is also currently under construction and will be finished by November 2016, and the Lumen Vitae University Center that is scheduled to open in August of 2017.

Richter added that Phase One fundraising continues to move forward for new programs, new scholarships and more renovations — one of which includes the establishment of the new School of Engineering to be located on north campus occupying two levels of the current University Hall building.