Topping Out ceremony welcomes community to Rinker Welcome Center
The Stetson University community gathered for the topping out of Stetson’s new Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Welcome Center on a beautiful afternoon on Mon. Apr. 4.
“This is a welcoming place,” said Stetson President Wendy B. Libby as she thanked the construction crew for their hard work, the Stetson community for its patience and John and Sheila Rinker and the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Foundation for making the iconic building possible. “It is a product of the vision and power of philanthropy.”
In attendance at the event were members of the Board of Trustees, including Steve Alexander, Rich George, Betty Johnson and several other special guests. Libby thanked the trustees for their commitment to expanding and enhancing the DeLand campus, in keeping with the university’s commitment to excellence—with some “modern twists.” Those include the One Stop Shop for current and prospective students, Career Services and a new place where alumni can gather and become re-engaged with Hatter life.
“Stetson’s campus has changed completely since I first set foot on it not too many years ago,” said Lua Hancock, vice provost of Campus Life and Student Success, “and so much for the better. Especially now,” she quipped, “that Career Planning will soon be relocated to the center of campus.”
Hancock acknowledged the overwhelming contribution of Al Allen, associate vice president of Facilities Management, and his entire team for their professionalism and helpfulness. “I am truly humbled and honored to be part of this team,” she said.
In his comments, Bob Lipscomb, CEO of Williams Company Building Division, Inc, explained the tradition that Stetson followed, of having the community sign the final beam before installing it at the top of the new structure. According to tradition, the topping out of a new building is celebrated when a tree is placed temporarily on top of the final beam. Following the ceremony, the tree will be taken down and will become part of the landscaping around the Rinker Welcome Center.
Jeffery Hahn, newly elected president of Stetson’s Student Government Association (SGA), and current SGA president Aaron Bibbee, spoke about the impressive improvements to the campus and the impact the new welcome center will have. Immediately afterwards, Lipscomb presented both SGA officers with an oversized check representing a $2,500 contribution to SGA from the Williams Company.
“This is a visionary building,” said Steve Alexander ‘85, trustee, and managing director and partner in the PFM Asset Management, LLC, in Orlando. “This is how the future looks – inclusive, with a welcoming eye on the future,” Alexander said. “This building represents how this university…stays relevant.”
“I was just thinking of how very exciting it’s been to see this building go up,” said alumna Lorna Jean Hagstrom, M.A. ’64, who is a longtime member of the School of Music Board of Advisors and friend of the university. “It seemed like it was a long time ago when all I saw was the orange pipes in the ground,” she said laughing. “And now it’s amazing to see all this progress. And, I’m so happy to learn that there will be so much glass installed, allowing people to see the beautiful campus outside. That will be so beautiful.”
Gregory C. Dworkin, junior marketing major, said, “It’s crazy to think how this area looked back in August when we all returned to campus. This was a huge pile of dirt. But, all the work that’s been done has proved all the doubters wrong. I really can’t wait for the ribbon-cutting ceremony when we return in the fall.”