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Lipscomb Academy teachers, students, board members and supporters gathered Thursday for a special ground-breaking ceremony for the forthcoming Brewer Campus expansion, the first phase of an expected $25 million project to bring 21st century learning facilities to the lower campus at Granny White Pike and Harding Place.
Janel Shoun-Smith |
Academy third-graders, who will be the first fifth-graders to enjoy the new facility at its expected completion in August 2020, were on hand to help turn the soil and to sing blessings upon the lead donors for the project. The ceremony was held at the site of a future complex to boast a 21st century learning commons and designated classroom and therapy space for education of students with special needs.
Lipscomb University President L. Randolph Lowry took the opportunity to comment on the divine influence of so many people almost randomly coming together to make the funding for the new expansion possible.
“We can’t imagine the story we are in, and the lives that are touched and the impact that God is having through his faithful people,” he said. “Thank you for being a part of the story that we can’t always explain, but thank you for realizing there is a story, and it is being walked out, even in this moment.”
The story began in 2011, when donor and board of trustees member Neika Stephens’ husband Bill Stephens made a $10 million pledge for the Stephens Christian Trust to support the facilities and programs of the academy.
Her family, the Brewers, has Lipscomb ties that go back generations, and before his death four years ago, Bill chose to honor her family and their commitment to Lipscomb with the donation.
At the time of the pledge, Lowry announced that the money would be used to renovate the elementary school, add a middle school facility adjacent to the elementary school and revamp the high school property located on the main campus.
Since that time, the elementary school has been renamed the Brewer campus, and both lower school and middle grades will be located at the Brewer campus after the completion of the expansion.
We can’t imagine the story we are in, and the lives that are touched and the impact that God is having through his faithful people. — L. Randolph Lowry, President
The first $16.5 million phase of expansion will include marquee spaces such as a new student dining hall and kitchen and the state-of-the-art learning commons, with an innovative collaborative hub that offers students technology-rich research stations, flexible furnishings, collaborative instructional spaces, inviting reading areas, access to library materials and creative makerspace materials among other features.
The first phase includes 22,000 square feet of new construction and 1,500 square feet of renovated space.
Also in the first phase will be the Solly School, designated classroom and therapy space for a new program that provides specific education and support services for students with special needs. The school is named after 4-year-old Solomon “Solly” James Rodan, the grandson of Pam and Jim Griffith, a board of trustees member and grandparent to several Lipscomb students.
The Griffith’s sixth grandchild, Solly, suffered three massive strokes at birth, and at the age of one, he was diagnosed with triplegic cerebral palsy.
“I would really like Solly to be educated in a loving environment like his cousins Eli, Emma and Reid,” said Jim Griffith, holding a smiling Solly as he spoke at the ceremony.
What matters is that the students who come to this campus know, love and follow no other name than Jesus. — Neika Stephens, Lipscomb Board of Trustees member
“I would like to thank the leadership of Lipscomb Academy, for the perspiration it has taken to make this a reality. I would like to thank President Lowry and Rhonda for the leadership to truly make this thing happen. And then I would like to thank the community in advance, because for this to be a reality there is going to have to be lot more financial support on an operational basis to make sure all kids like Solly have an opportunity to come to Lipscomb Academy on the same terms.”
The Solly School will offer the access, flexibility, sensory accommodations and safety needed to ensure a successful educational experience for special needs students, but those students will also be as fully integrated as possible in appropriate grade-level classrooms, chapel, recess and lunch periods.
In a show of respect for the Christian mission of Lipscomb Academy, Neika Stephens walked to the podium barefoot, saying the site was “holy ground.” “What matters is that the students who come to this campus know, love and follow no other name than Jesus,” she said.
The third graders quoted the academy’s verse of the year—Romans 15:13—and sang “We Love You with the Love of the Lord,” to those assembled.
“Even though a lot of this has been talked about for years,” declared Greg Glenn, head of school for Lipscomb Academy, “Now it’s time to get busy!”