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Groundbreaking Signals Growth at WAU

By Celeste Ryan Blyden
Photos by Al Peasley

Cheers erupted from the crowd gathered at Washington Adventist University (WAU) last month as church and school leaders; WAU Board members; community, state, and educational officials; and a student representative broke ground on what will be the new music building—the first new building on the school’s Takoma Park, Md., campus in 40 years. “This is one small step for the music building, one giant leap for the university,” said Columbia Union Conference president and WAU Board chair Dave Weigley (pictured with Weymouth Spence, Virginia-Gene Rittenhouse, and James Bingham).

The new building, which will serve nearly 40 music majors and 150 others involved in the school’s renowned music program, will house a large rehearsal hall, administrative offices, practice rooms, classrooms, and music libraries. “This is the culmination of 16 years of dreaming,” said James Bingham, chair of WAU’s Music Department.

But, as board member Dean Bouland explained, it’s much more: “It says we’re committed to remaining in Takoma Park, we’re expanding our programs and we’re moving forward,” he said.

Lupita Garza, Student Association president, agreed. “This is a really important project for our entire campus because it’s kind of the initiation for new things to come. A lot of the students are really encouraged that there’s not just talk about a new building, but they’re actually getting to see it.”

For WAU president Weymouth Spence, EdD, it was a sign of progress. “Two and a half years ago when I was interviewed by the board, they made clear some of the objectives they wanted to have accomplished,” he said. “With the teamwork of our faculty, staff, and students, we were able to get a shovel in the ground and start the process of building our new music facility, which is scheduled to open fall of 2011.”

The hourlong ceremony opened WAU’s Alumni Weekend, which included a celebration of the school’s new university status and dedication of President Spence (pictured). “This was a special time to celebrate a renewed focus at WAU,” Weigley said. “The spirit is growing here, and it’s a good time for students across our union and division to go to school near the nation’s capital and have the experience of being taught by dedicated staff who are focused on leading young people to Jesus Christ and preparing them for lives for greater service.”