May 1, 2007

Construction begins on Towns Center

by Amy Field, Asst. News Editor
What began as the dream of a great teacher has now become one of Liberty’s greatest ventures.
“I was in the hospital two years ago with cancer,” said Dr. Elmer Towns. “(One night, while I was there), I dreamed I was teaching a classroom of 1,000 students and they all had laptops.”

Wednesday, April 25 at 2:00 p.m., Towns related this story of the vision he to the more than 70 people who attended the groundbreaking of the Towns Alumni Training Center.

The classroom, which will seat 900 students, will be an addition onto the B.R. Lakin School of Religion and will be built along with a facelift for the present structure.

A rendering of the improved building shows columns and white steps being added to match those of DeMoss Hall and Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Previous plans had placed the new classroom on the south side of the School of Religion, reaching down to the Liberty Bell gazebo. However, because of the need for parking, the plans were changed to build the training center behind the school, next to Highway 460.

Additionally, another new room will be added on the religion hall, called the Hall of Ministry. A round, octagonal room with murals of founder Dr. Jerry Falwell and the old Thomas Road Baptist Church will serve as a classroom and commemorate the beginnings of Liberty University.

At the beginning of the groundbreaking ceremony, Falwell made his entrance by driving his signature black SUV onto the grassy area behind the School of Religion, where the new “smart” classroom will be built.

Andy Barrick, the head of Liberty’s Alumni Relations, introduced the project.

“The campaign was launched September 1, 2006 with a goal to collect $2 million to finance this project,” said Barrick.

“As of today, we have raised $507,000.”

Liberty alumni students are expected to provide much of the funds for the building project, hence the reference to alumni in the title of the classroom.

Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, opened the ceremony in prayer.

 He then introduced Falwell, who spoke about the co-founder of Liberty and his good friend with fondness.

“We’ve lived to see some wonderful things happen on Liberty Mountain,” said Falwell.
After he spoke a while longer about Towns’ part in Liberty’s history, Falwell joined Godwin and Towns in the initial groundbreaking.

Each with his own shovel dug into the ground.

Towns, appropriately, came up with the biggest pile of red dirt. He then came to the microphone and told the story of his dream classroom and explained how it was going to become a reality. After the groundbreaking, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Boyd Rist, closed the ceremony with a word of prayer.

Dr. Lew Weider, the Director of Christian and Community Service was excited about the new addition and the versatility it presents.

“As the university continues to grow, this will provide an opportunity to bring our majors together,” he said.

“It will combine one setting and one great teacher. When you have a master teacher like Dr. Towns, this is a way to maximize his energy. He’ll be able to teach one class of 900, rather than three classes of 300. It will also be able to bring students together and connect them with preachers from around the world.”

Contact Amy Field at afield@liberty.edu.

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