Lisle, Illinois ~ When prospective students and their families visit Benedictine this fall, they’ll not only encounter a tradition of hospitality and a values-centered liberal arts education, they’ll come face to face with the University’s history when they walk through the entrance to the new Neff Welcome Center.
On Monday, Benedictine unveiled the $2.5 million welcome center, anchored by the historic Neff Farmhouse, one of the oldest stone structures in DuPage County, at an open house ceremony for University faculty, staff and students, guests, local dignitaries and the Monks of St. Procopius Abbey. More than 100 years ago, the founding monks of the University purchased the farmhouse and 108 surrounding acres in Lisle to expand their vision for a Roman Catholic institution guided by Benedictine values.
“Today is the day that we think about tradition, going back to the very beginnings of the school and the monastery,” said Abbot Austin G. Murphy, O.S.B., of St. Procopius Abbey. “Tradition is something we have the responsibility to continue. At this place, we can especially think of what we want to add to our tradition.”
Located near the College Road entrance on the eastern edge of campus, the 2,700-square-foot center will serve as the new home for the University’s freshmen enrollment operations and the formal starting point where students and their families can learn more about the University.
“It’s a stake right in the middle of campus to say this is who we are, who we were and who we will be,” said University President William J. Carroll, Ph.D. “It was the first abbey, the first school. It was the first residence and still in a sense is. It’s a reminder of who we are, and I think it’s an affirmation of who we are today.”
Walking through the front entrance to the center, visitors are immediately introduced to the University’s past through a series of photographs and other memorabilia adorning the walls. Just off the entrance is a relaxed lounging area and an adjacent meeting room where students can schedule a meeting with an enrollment adviser.
Work on the center began on March 2, 2012, the 125th anniversary of the University’s founding as St. Procopius College. The new facility also includes event space, offices and a conference room.
First built in 1852, the Neff Farmhouse was a family home made out of limestone from a local quarry. To retain the rich history of the Neff Farmhouse, matching brick limestone was incorporated into the rest of the welcome center.
An Alumni Plaza complete with a limestone bench and commemorative brick from the Class of 2012 also adorn the entryway to the center.
Fr. David Turner, O.S.B., assistant to the provost for Mission and Identity, reflected on the renovated farmhouse as dozens of passersby toured the inside of the finished facility and peered inside new office spaces, meeting and welcoming areas outfitted with flat-screen TVs, new furniture, a kitchen for staging catered events and a deck overlooking the entrance to campus.
“It’s miraculous,” Turner said. “It was just a tiny thing and had a group of workmen that were originally living in there, so it’s really a transformation. What’s important is that this keeps the history going, that the first building that was here when we purchased the farm is going to continue to be a center for activity at the University.”
The University is continuing to expand, offering and investing in more services to create an enhanced academic environment to preserve and advance the monk’s mission of educating future generations of scholars.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors, 16 graduate and four doctorate programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ranked Benedictine University as the seventh fastest-growing campus among private nonprofit master’s universities, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among the top 20 percent of America’s colleges for 2011. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fourth largest in the Chicago area in 2011.