By Michael Wunder, News Editor
The University of Nebraska Omaha formally dedicated Roskens Hall as the new home of the College of Education Friday with an explosive ceremony before the building’s south Sally Ann Haddix Entrance, featuring a host of influential speakers and a fireworks display.
More than 100 attendees gathered, garbed in formalwear, to hear speakers including College of Education Dean Nancy Edick, University of Nebraska President James Milliken, UNO Chancellor John Christensen, Ruth Scott – a principal donor to the project – and former UNO Chancellor and NU President Emeritus Ron Roskens, whose vibrant sense of humor was on full display.
“If I had any brains, I’d say ‘amen’ and sit down,” Roskens said. “But I don’t have any brains.”
Roskens took time in his speech to thank all of those who helped renovate and bring Roskens Hall to the “forefront of innovation.”
“I salute heartily and enthusiastically all those who have labored to this destination,” Roskens said. “[Roskens Hall] is well prepared to meet the challenges of a society that’s globally connected and ever-changing.”
Lois Roskens also spoke at the dedication, emotionally connecting the ceremony’s sense of beginning with her past career as a first grade teacher—a connection which she said almost brought tears to her eyes.
“I never thought I’d have another first day of school,” Lois Roskens said. “But looking at this building, I’m filled with the same feelings of excitement and anticipation.”
Milliken’s speech honored Roskens for his dedication to education, as well as giving Milliken a stepping-stone into his career in administration.
“If it weren’t for Ron Roskens, I’d be a securities lawyer in New York right now,” Milliken said. “You can either thank or blame Ron Roskens.”
Milliken praised Roskens for “pioneering” global engagement by collaborating with a Chinese university on successful early childhood education research before announcing an International Experience Fund, established to gain a better understanding of an “interconnected and interdependent” world.
Ruth Scott, a principal donor to the campaign, spent her speech extolling the virtues of the project, the university and Nebraska.
“I never have to decide what the opening sentence of my remarks will be—it’s always the same” Scott said. “There’s no place like Nebraska.”
The University of Nebraska Omaha can be proud of its ever-changing reputation as a great university, Scott said, while sticking true to the university’s values of hard work and dedication.
“One thing that did not change and will never change is the happiness, the contentment and the joy you feel for a job well done,” Scott said. A joy she said will accompany many graduates of the College of Education as they begin their careers as educators.
Chancellor Christensen began his remarks by inducting Ruth and Bill Scott into the “Order of the Tower”, honoring them for their exemplary service and financial support in continuing UNOs mission.
“The Scotts in their quiet and generous way have transformed this campus in a short period of time,” Christensen said. “They are in great measure the wind beneath our wings.”
During Christensen’s speech, a student walked past the crowd and entered Roskens Hall, an almost too-perfect occurrence during an event hailing the College of Education and UNOs growing future in producing graduates, workers and persons of the highest quality.
Then there was fire.
“When I heard about this, I was a bit nervous,” Christensen said, revealing a “rather ominous” device. “I’m worried about this detonator concept.”
The detonator in question was connected to a series of spark-showering fireworks amassed over the building’s entryway, which left the audience awed, if not slightly nervous.
After the display, visitors toured the building.
The $13.7 million Roskens Hall renovation project took a year to complete, beginning August 2010 when the College of Business moved to brand-new Mammel Hall at the Pacific Street location.
The new building allows for an extra 20,000 square feet of space for science, technology, math and engineering rooms. The renovated building will house new collaboration rooms for faculty and students, as well as speech, language and counseling clinics.
The Scotts and Dr. George Haddix were the principal donors to the project through the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Campaign for Nebraska.
Dr. Haddix, in addition to donating, has endowed two chairs since last year (one in the College of Education, the other in the College of Arts and Sciences) that focus on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
“We are only beginning to explore what this new building will do for our future educators. This renovation provides an enhanced experience for students, faculty and staff on so many levels,” Edick said the event’s press release. “Roskens Hall allows us to teach new ways of learning and leading in the profession of education. Our classrooms and common spaces now enhance collaboration among students, and provide partnership opportunities with the community.”