ACU’s Freshman Village came another step closer to reality Friday as donors, alumni and friends of the university gathered to break ground on a new residence hall for first-year students.
Wessel Hall, named for ACU trustee Rick (’81) and his wife, Debbie (Rains ’80) Wessel, of Westlake, Texas, will be constructed on the site of the former Gardner Hall. The Wessels were joined at the ceremony by their daughter, Jenny (Wessel ’04) Haskin, and her husband, Travis (’05); their son, Jared (’09) Wessel and his wife, Erin (Knight ’08); and their grandchildren.
It joins Bullock Hall, which opened in Fall 2021, as a pillar of the Freshman Village project, a comprehensive renovation and construction campaign. In later phases, the project will include renovation of other residence halls for first-year students, all to be grouped along East North 16th Street.
ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) spoke about the significance of the new facility in meeting the living and learning needs of today’s students.
“We believe this new residence hall will provide the type of environment necessary to build a vibrant campus community,” he said. “Students will study, pray and work together on these grounds. They will build lifelong relationships and develop as individuals as they grow into the Christian servants and leaders the world needs.”
Wessel Hall builds on the rich legacy of Gardner Hall, which housed ACU women for 60 years and “served them well,” said Schubert.
Felix E. and Martelia Hastings Gardner recognized the value of a Christian education and were dedicated supporters of the university, Schubert said, noting their significant estate gifts and donations of land in the 1950s and ’60s.
When asked what inspired them to make their gifts to the university, the late Felix Gardner replied, “We think that Abilene Christian College is doing the best job we know of handling its finances and carrying out its purposes as a Christian college.”
That, said Schubert, “is a standard we still try to live up to every day, and we look forward to honoring the Gardner legacy in the new hall.”
Madi Miller, a senior convergence journalism major from Abilene and one of the leaders on the ACU women’s basketball team, expressed her gratitude to the donors for making Wessel Hall possible. In addition to the Wessels, key donors include Mark (’80) and Jana (Gilpatrick ’81) Hanner; Jack (’77) and Karen (Leith ’78) Rich; Mark (’83) and Angela (Isham ’84) Duncum; and Rudith (Frazier ’65) Drennan.
“Residence halls are such an important part of the student experience here at ACU,” Miller said. “From our very first days on campus, the halls are where we begin to form the relationships that define our time here and will continue long after we graduate. Future Wildcats will be greatly blessed by the community that grows here, so thank you for your investment in them.”
The 96,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in Fall 2023, will be four stories tall and house 350 first-year students, including an Honors living/learning community and a three-bedroom apartment for a faculty-in-residence.
“We are grateful for the generosity of our donors whose investment in our students helped bring this dream to life,” Schubert said. “Their investment in this vision for campus living has played a vital role in the progress we celebrate today.”