On Saturday, Sept. 29, Waynesburg University formally dedicated the Willison Residence Hall and held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its Robert C. Wiley Armory. Members of the Waynesburg University Board of Trustees; President Timothy R. Thyreen; Waynesburg University Board Chair Mark Fox; the Rev. Dr. Donald P. Wilson, Interim Director of Christian Life at Waynesburg University, and additional members of the Waynesburg University administration participated in the events.
Timothy R. Thyreen, Waynesburg University President, discussed the day's significance before introducing Mark Fox, Chair of the Waynesburg University Board of Trustees, to share the story behind the naming of the residence hall.
In August of 2010, just three months prior to his passing in November of 2010, James Kenneth Willison Jr. gifted $1 million to Waynesburg University, and asked that a building be named in honor and memory of his father and mother, J. Kenneth and Wynona Shearer Willison.
“His tangible gift memorializes his parents and perpetuates the Christian mission of Waynesburg University,” Fox said.
Appropriately, the scripture verse on the Willison Residence Hall plaque is taken from Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you."
The Rev. Dr. Donald P. Wilson briefly spoke about the Willison family and his personal honor of serving as J. K. Willison Jr.'s pastor for three years before his passing.
"I chose a verse that aptly describes Jim and his family," he said. "Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . ."
Reverend Wilson delivered the closing prayer and said, "this building will stand witness to God's love and the good news of Jesus Christ."
Members of the Willison family, including granddaughters of J. Kenneth Willison Sr. Julia Young and Amy Mendicino, were in attendance.
"We are honored to see the legacy that was begun in the early part of the 20th century continued and memorialized in this fashion," said Julia Young
Mendicino talked about the ways her grandparents made a difference to those around them.
"They showed the community they were Christians," she said. "From the squirrels my grandfather cared for to those who needed Christ, and Nana in her quiet ways; they were role models for others in their spiritual Christian walk."
Following the Willison Residence Hall dedication, the University held the ribbon cutting for the Robert C. Wiley Armory.
The University recently gave new life to the 98-year-old structure, making it the third oldest building on Waynesburg’s historic campus. Anchoring Waynesburg’s campus are two buildings older than Robert C. Wiley Armory - Miller and Hanna Halls, both of which are buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, built in 1851 and 1874, respectively.
Located near the University’s Willison Hall and the Fitness Center, the Armory is a natural extension of the campus.
Like Miller and Hanna before it, the Armory was renovated to be utilized while still maintaining the historic nature of the structure. By purchasing and renovating the Armory, the University ensured the building, which has been an important part of the local community for decades, didn't fall into disrepair and disuse, Barnhart said.
The gymnasium within the Armory was renovated and became home to the University wrestling program. The Student Health Center, previously located in a house on the corner of Morris and First Streets, relocated to the Armory, along with offices of the University's Information Technology Department, while its data center remains in the Paul R. Stewart Science Hall.
The interior was refurbished, the flooring was painted and refinished and the drill hall received a significant facelift as well, with the suspended ceiling removed to expose the original domed ceiling underneath.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was followed by an open house which afforded members of the community the opportunity to examine the renovations.
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