A ribbon-cutting, dedication ceremony, and a packed-to-overflowing house for a Handel’s “Messiah” performance like none that have come before heralded the opening of the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts at Tabor College this weekend, but staff and students are equally excited about what comes next.
When the new arts center at Tabor College becomes fully functional next semester, students will have a place where they can meet as one to worship and be inspired in their spiritual lives.
With the growth in enrollment over the years, two daily chapel services were held to accommodate everyone. Now, that will change.
“We’re very excited,” said Staci Janzen, former assistant to President Jules Glanzer and now a business instructor at the college. “We can have one chapel service every day instead of two. We couldn’t come together as a whole student body.”
Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce members gathered Friday in front of the center to kick off the weekend celebration with brief speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Glanzer wielded oversized scissors as he snipped a bright blue ribbon.
Almost every seat in the 829-seat capacity Richert Auditorium was filled Saturday as people came from near and far to share in the dedication of the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts. The auditorium was named in honor of longtime music director Herbert C. Richert.
Glanzer said the arts center was discussed for 83 years, ever since a 1934 student suggested it. When drama instructor Jack Braun come in 1966, he talked about it.
Now, after 18 months of construction, the building is a reality. Glanzer said just $150,000 of the $13.6 million cost is outstanding.
“It’s a historic day,” he said. “One man sows, and another reaps. Creativity went into this facility and creativity will come out of this facility.”
He called the structure “a holy building” created for the glory of God.
“It’s perfectly okay to be a little giddy inside,” speaker Del Gray said. “We are surrounded by studios, labs, and workshops for students, and in here we will see and hear the result of their work.”
After the dedication ceremony, people were free to wander about the massive structure and view the various departments it incorporates. A wide stairway and elevator took them to the second floor filled with classrooms.
Many were effusive in their praise of the facility.
“It’s wonderful,” alumni director Rod Hamm said. “It’s 50 years overdue, but we’ll take it.”
Clint Seibel, member of the fundraising committee, said almost $4 million was contributed by people from the Hillsboro area.
“I just think it’s amazing how friends from our local community have come in and been a part of this,” he said. “It’s such a fabulous building.”
Various areas are named after longtime associates of the college, their names proclaimed in large letters.
The high-ceilinged, wide-open entry is named the Regier Atrium. The Franz Family Heritage Lobby, named after the late president Leonard J. Franz, will be a meeting place for small groups and a conference room for the board of directors.
The Prieb-Harder Theatre, named after longtime play director Judy Harder whose father, Wesley Prieb, was a Tabor professor, is separate from the auditorium. A complex of rooms behind the theatre, for designing sets and costumes for theatrical productions, is named in honor of Braun.
The Ebel Gallery is an art gallery named for the late professor A.E. Ebel.
Marina Stutzman, a student from Wichita, looked around in awe.
“I think I’m going to have to take another art class so I can come in here,” she said.
Her brother, Zach, was enthusiastic as well.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “They’ve put in a lot of work and many long days to get this done.”
Bradley Vogel, director of music, who led a presentation of his own choral and band composition at the dedication, was found afterward in the Vogel Choral Room.
“It’s designed for rehearsals,” he said. “It will catch every sound that’s made. We’ve worked for this for such a long time. To be in it and realize it’s yours is overwhelming. It’s wonderful.”
The building is named in honor of the wife of Chuck Flaming of Paxton, Nebraska. Chuck Flaming became a close friend with Glanzer 12 years ago. The Flamings contributed $2 million to the project.
“We didn’t inherit our wealth,” Flaming said. “We were a team and we worked hard together to build something.”
Chuck went to work at his in-laws’ farm after he married Shari and graduated from college in Nebraska. The couple gradually developed a 7,500-head feedlot. They eventually bought into the farm corporation and continued it after her parents’ deaths.
Shari was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 10 years ago; fortunately, she was able to be present Saturday with her husband to tour the facility and see her namesake.
“I thought, ‘What better way to honor my sweet wife,’” Chuck Flaming said in naming the complex. “It’s all about what God has done for us. Our desire for this place is that the Gospel will be proclaimed to the student body and people will learn to know Jesus Christ.”
The Gospel was proclaimed in stirring fashion Sunday as Tabor College Oratorio and Alumni Chorus and Community Orchestra performed Handel’s “Messiah” for a crowd that exceeded Richert Auditorium’s capacity.
Dozens of people in Prieb-Harder Theatre viewed the concert video feed that simultaneously was broadcast online, as was the dedication ceremony.