Arena groundbreaking speeches:Gratitude and opportunity

Arena groundbreaking ceremony

The speeches below were delivered at the July 23, 2007, groundbreaking ceremony for the arena section of Concordia's Health, Human Performance and Athletic Center.


Speaker: Dennis Meyer, Co-Chair On A Mission Campaign 

President & Mrs. Friedrich
President Sommerfeld
Members of the Board of Regents
Fellow Foundation Board Members
Distinguished Guests
Concordia Students, Faculty & Staff
Ladies and Gentlemen 

A very good afternoon to all of you. 

I’m Dennis Meyer, A Concordia Foundation board member and a co-chair of the On A Mission campaign.  It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to today’s Groundbreaking Ceremony which celebrates the visible beginning of a new milestone in the journey of Concordia University Nebraska. 

This is a joyous occasion, especially for the many of us here who have been personally involved in conceptualizing and shaping the HHPAC, and organizing and directing the On A Mission Campaign. Today, as we commemorate the groundbreaking for an inspiring and critically needed new building, we are celebrating among friends.

Friends who share our vision and aspiration for the future of Concordia University Nebraska. Friends who recognize the unique role that Concordia plays in Lutheran higher education. Friends who are leaders of religion, education, government, commerce and other professions, who will inspire the next generation to make their own notable contributions as servant leaders. Friends and donors who have stepped up to expand their levels of support to make this dream come true. 

Like the leaders and builders before us, the project that we are celebrating today has required leadership, foresight, careful planning and philanthropy.  And while we are just breaking ground, today is far from the beginning of this project.  In fact, this early step has been years in the making!   We are all part of an amazing history of caring for Concordia.  Each of us here today has had a special role in getting this University to today’s ceremony.  However, as you know, there is a lot of construction to do and more funds need to be raised to reach our capital campaign goals. 

We are still On A Mission! 

In closing, I look forward to standing here with you upon the successful completion of this project and cutting the ribbon together with you in 2009! Finally, on behalf of the campaign leadership I want to extend our thanks to each of the stakeholder groups represented here today.  Thank you! 

“Patience and persistence” 

Speaker: Dr. Frederick A. Ohlde, Co-Chair, On A Mission Campaign   

Today, this ground breaking is the result of 5 years of patience and persistence.  Five years ago Concordia launched it’s On a Mission Project,  a project with a 60 million fund raising goal that included funds for endowments, operations and capital projects.  Today we see the first phase of the capital project being launched.  Breaking ground for the first phase of the Health and Human Performance Athletic Center is an achievement that can only be punctuated with “Praise Be To God” 

Five years ago the Board of Regents and Foundation Board Members were asked the question, “Which of all the capital projects will do the most good for the most number of students?” 

The unanimous response was the Health and Human Performance Athletic Center.  The students were asked the same question.  Their response was the Health & Human Performance Athletic Center.   Five years ago all the key stakeholders agreed that Health and Human Performance Athletic Center was the most critical capital project that would do the most good for the most students. This groundbreaking marks the first of a three phased approach to erecting this magnificent building. 

It is a dream come true and what a blessing it will be for Concordia.  It will impact many students on this campus.  Not just those involved in intercollegiate athletics, but all students who value physical activity and who are pursuing degrees in health and related fields of study.   

The impact this facility will have on recruitment is immeasurable.  Today there is serious competition among post secondary educational institutions to attract students.  Students and parents have options and make choices based on what colleges offer and that includes facilities.  For Concordia to compete and attract students, a modern facility such as this one is a must.  Many students are coming from high schools whose facilities are superior to what exist today.  However, starting today that is changing. 

I believe this Health and Human Performance Athletic Center and the entire On a Mission Campaign will help Concordia become one of the premier liberal arts universities in the mid-west.  I also believe Concordia can achieve this distinction while continuing to be the leading institution for providing Church workers to the Lutheran Church.   

The mission of this institution, “preparing servant leaders for the church & world”, is compelling and powerful.  The dedication and commitment of the leaders of this institution is unwavering.  This groundbreaking is an example of that commitment.  “Praise be to God”.    

“No more living rooms!”

Speaker: Dr. Eunice Goldgrabe, Professor of Health and Human Performance 

At the end of each academic term the graduating seniors in the HHP department evaluate their experiences over the past 4-5 years as students in the department. They evaluate curriculum, instruction, equipment, and yes, facilities. As I was reviewing these evaluations last year I came across one who had rightfully evaluated facilities relatively low and then, in the space for comments wrote, “I have taken virtually all the classes in my major in the living room of an old house!” For those who might not know, since 1998 the HHP department has been housed in the home of former presidents of this institution. Soon we can say to our majors, “No more living rooms!” To our faculty we can say, “No more bedroom and storage closet offices!” “No more sharing with another person or with the copy machine and printer!” 

As with the other programs (athletics, intramurals, community activities) that have operated out of the old gymnasium, the academic area has grown significantly in the years since its inception. Initially the department offered only an elementary education physical education endorsement. Soon a secondary endorsement was added. Now the department has seven endorsements in health/physical education teacher education, for liberal arts majors (health promotion, sport management, exercise science, and human performance) and a proposal to add a major in sport studies with an emphasis in sport communication and an emphasis in coaching. There are 75-90 students annually enrolled in some program in our department, four full-time faculty and six PT instructors. This new facility and the addition of a human performance lab and a computer lab will enable teachers and students to teach and learn in ways previously not available. 

Strong preparation of HHP students is imperative in our society which is plagued with obesity, overweight, inactivity, and diseases that result from those conditions. Two-thirds of our population is overweight and one-third is obese. The direct cost of physical inactivity may be as high as 25 billion dollars. These statistics plead for qualified professionals to educate, motivate and lead children, youth, and adults toward a healthy lifestyle, toward wellness. Graduates from our academic programs serve as teachers, coaches, corporate wellness directors, physical therapists, community health educators, researchers, athletic trainers, directors of athletics, personal and group fitness trainers, and in other capacities. 

Educator and author Ernest Boyer wrote in The Undergraduate Experience in America, “All students should be helped to understand that wellness is a prerequisite for all else… and that caring for one’s body is a special trust.”  Imperative to the calling of the professionals who graduate from our programs is that ability to promote the holistic development of a sound mind and spirit in a sound body…the ability to promote wellness. 

On July 4 someone on the platform quoted St. Paul and mentioned how familiar Paul was with physical activity and sport in his era. The Olympics, after all, had been celebrated since 776 BC and Paul’s trips surely would have placed him near people who trained for the various games of the day! In Acts 17 Paul finds himself in Athens, near where the Olympics began, surrounded by altars to various gods. Paul calls attention to the altar inscribed “To the Unknown God” and then proceeds to make known this God and God’s works. He emphasizes that his God is not far from any of them and then proclaims, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” I am convinced that Paul’s use of the word “move” was not happenstance. I believe that he had been led to what educator’s sometimes call “a teachable moment.” Purposeful movement, training, conditioning, practicing, and healthful living had been part of the Athenian’s culture and their games were designed to not merely test their physical prowess but to perfect the holistic ideal and to praise their gods. Now comes Paul who tells the men of Athens of the God from whom their wisdom, ability and strength truly comes; the God worthy of their worship.  

What a connection that should have been. 

As Christians today we are privileged to see that connection. God has blessed us with gifs of body, mind, and spirit. We all are called as stewards to develop those gifts and lead others in recognizing and using them to the best of their abilities. My hope and prayer would be that all who enter the doors of this new facility will see God at work in those who study and teach, train and play within its walls.



“To God’s glory”

Speaker: Grant Schmidt, Athletic Director  

On behalf of the athletic staff and student athletes, at Concordia University, I would like to thank, President Friedrich, and members of the various boards for this opportunity! 

In 1959, the current facility, to the west of us, was constructed. At that time concordia’s enrollment was under 800 students, there existed no women’s collegiate athletic program, there was a very minimal intramural program and there existed little or no focus on overall health and fitness for students, faculty, staff. 

My how things have changed! Today women’s programs have equaled men’s programs, student intramural programs have flourished, and every year more and more of our student body, faculty, and staff, engage in fitness and exercise programs. 

The inadequacy of the current gymnasium to meet Concordia’s need was realized already in 1964, when the first study and recommendation for addition and renovation was submitted! Subsequent committees and action teams were formed in 1982, 1993, 1995, and in 2002!  

Winston Churchill, in one of his greatest speeches, told the people of Great Britain, after they had been bombed by Hitler, 5 memorable words… “Never, never, never give up!” How true are those words for us here at Concordia! People from our past like Leonard Schlueter, people like Carl Everts, Eunice Goldgrabe, and Stan Schlueter,  and so many others before us here today that have given most of their professional career to this place and today finally see their dream, our dream, realized! Thank you for your efforts, and your years of commitment! 

This building will house one of the finest athletic departments in the NAIA! Out of nearly 300 member institutions in the NAIA, Concordia University Athletic Teams leads the way in scholar athletes. For the 4th year in a row, Concordia has had the highest number of scholar athletes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference! And just last week, the NAIA announced the results for the NAIA Scholar Team award which requires a varsity team to average a 3.0 grade point average. Out of the 18 varsity teams that Concordia sponsors, 16 received this honor! And I am proud to say that this was the highest total of any institution in the NAIA! 

So this day belongs to our student athletes as well! They deserve this, and my thanks goes to the many alumni before them who paved this road to success! I pray therefore, that the young athletes who will use this place will find in it the skill and concern of their coaches so that they may develop their skills until they are as sharp and fine as they are capable of becoming. I pray that they may find in this building the knowledge that will help them not only on the field of athletic competition but in life as well. I pray that in this place they will come to know themselves and to know others and will develop respect, honor, and love that will carry them through life as worthy human beings.  We ask today, that we may always use it to God’s glory, and that today will be the beginning of many tomorrows filled with personal growth, true and honest sportsmanship, courage, honor, and unity for all who use it! Thank you!

“On behalf of the student body”

Speaker: Laura Bogenhagen, Student Senate President for 2006-07  

Thank you, Pete [Kenow].  So I got a call a few weeks ago from some random person in Weller, asking me if I would be interested in participating in this ceremony. So I said, “Sure, I can help out with the digging!” 

As soon as I hung up, I thought to myself, “I’ll bet you anything they call me back, asking me to speak at the thing, and guess what…here I am!”  All jokes aside though, it is very nice to still be included. 

This past year I had the privilege of serving as the President of our Student Body, and along with that I got to work with the Foundation members and talk with them a little bit about what their hopes for this building are. And I think they share the same feelings with me (as I’m sure the rest of you do) that the HHPAC will not only benefit our current students (in 2009), but it will also be a great recruiting tool for new students. 

As a former Bulldog track member, I can tell you that the indoor track is going to be pretty nice when the snow is covering those hills! Also, having participated in intramural sports here, I can tell you that it is going to be really nice to have more than one gym available! I don’t know if many of you know this, but often times we have to stack up those games until midnight because there are a lot of people trying to play and only one space that we can do it in. 

So, on behalf of the student body, I just want to say how excited we are about the progress of this new facility and we can’t wait to get in there and use it!   

“We have much to do!”

Speaker: Mark Kolterman, Seward community representative 

Thank you for the opportunity to make a few remarks.  113 years ago a bond was forged between the community of Seward and Concordia University.  I believe that bond is as strong if not stronger today then it was back then.  The goal of this institution has always been to educate servant leaders for the church and world and I believe that the focus that was founded 113 years ago has never been lost but has been expanded. 

In order to continue to attract students we need to have state of the art facilities.  Once we get the students on campus it is our obligation to educate them in a “Christ Centered” environment and equip all of them for a life of “Servant Leadership.”  That takes on many forms but it can not begin to happen until or unless we get them here and this facility will go a long way in helping recruit students. 

But let’s not stop here!  We have much to do!  Phase 1, 2, and 3 of this project need to be completed as soon as possible so that we can begin to update our other facilities like the music building and the science building.  All of this needs to be done while at the same time building on our endowment. 

My challenge to each and every one of you is this.  If you haven’t made a financial commitment to this project, you need to do so.  And if you have made a financial commitment, I would like to ask you to consider doing more. 

Concordia, the Seward community is behind you in your efforts just like it was in 1894.  With God’s help and guidance, let’s keep pushing forward as the mission continues! Thank you!  

“By God's grace and by His power”

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, president of Concordia University, Nebraska

In Genesis 18:14 as God informs Abraham and Sarah that they are going to have a son late in the golden years of their lives, He asks Abraham this question: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" You and I know the rest of the story. At age 100 Abraham and Sarah conceive, have a son named Isaac and begin to fill the Promised Land of Israel with their descendents. If God can do that what else can He do?

In recent days some of you have reminded me again that the project we begin today has been dreamed of, talked about and promised for nearly 40 years. I accused a longtime coach and former athletic director of a lack of optimism when I was told he had said: "This building project will never happen." When I mentioned that to him, he told me he had been misquoted. What he actually said was: "This building will never happen-in my lifetime!"

"Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

As the people of God we boldly and confidently shout: NO! With God all things are possible. By God's grace and by His power at work in the hearts and lives of 100s of friends, alumni, faculty, staff, students, architects, builders, contractors, sub-contractors, material suppliers, Seward neighbors and many more what we begin today is yet one more evidence that nothing is too hard for the LORD.

Today it is my delight to thank each of you for your vision, persistence, prayers, words of encouragement, financial investment, wisdom, creativity, optimism and energy that have helped bring us to this point in time.

God is a faithful God. He is a God of great abundance. Today we celebrate and give thanks for the marvelous way He has raised up just the right people at just the right time to bring about the construction of the Health, Human Performance Center and Athletic Center. Earlier today Pete Kenow shared thanks and appreciation for many who have labored hard and long in this process. I add my thanks to those already mentioned and want especially to share my deep appreciation for the following:

  • Dave Kumm and his staff in the business, accounting and finance office for their diligent work in securing bond financing and for Dave's strong leadership with the planning team in completing the design of the facility;
  • Mel Varner for his willingness to tackle one more project and to give it his sole focus until he retires in March of next year; Pete Kenow and the members of the development team who have crisscrossed the country raising the friends and funds to make today's groundbreaking possible;
  • Dennis Meyer, Fred Ohlde and Doug Tewes who five years ago said YES to lead what has become the most successful fundraising campaign in Concordia's history
  • The Board of Regents who boldly approved this project and is resolved to complete it; The Directors of CFI who have given freely and generously to enable the project to move forward.
Dear friends, today, with the LORD we begin this task. We do so with great boldness, confidence, optimism and thankfulness because there is nothing too hard for the LORD.

With this spade I now break ground, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May the building which will be constructed here be dedicated here be dedicated to the glory of God and become a blessing to His people.

Closing thanks and prayer

Speaker: Rev. Russ Sommerfeld, Chairman of the Board of Regents  

Good afternoon.  In light of Pete Kenow’s observations about following a fireworks’ display, I have chosen not to use my own words to offer gratitude on this great occasion.  For, my own words would not be adequate at this moment.    

I have chosen to use the words of the man who Eunice Goldgrabe quoted just moments ago.  The Apostle Paul was a man who cheered on many a runner, wrestler, discus thrower, javelin thrower, and marathoner at the Olympic Games in Athens and the Isthmus Games at Corinth.  And Coach Schmidt, I am sure he would have also cheered at a basketball, volleyball, or soccer games if he had seen one.  Not only was Paul a sports fan, but he was also a man who was given the opportunity to speak God’s own Word.  For, God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use sports imaginary to encourage Christians to run the race of faith and receive the crown of victory that Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, has already won for us.   

So, to give thanks for this day and for each of you, I offer these words that God gave to Paul to give to the congregation of Christians at ancient Philippi:  

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:3-6)  

Let us pray. 

O Lord God, our Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for creating all things and creating human beings with mind, body and spirit.  We further praise you that our bodies can Your temples, where Your Holy Spirit dwells.

Dear Lord Jesus, we also give our gratitude to You for redeeming us in mind, body and spirit from our fallen sinful nature so that we can live in Your mercy and know the joy of salvation every day.

O Holy Spirit, continue to inspire us to place all of our confidence in You for beginning and the completion of this center for human performance and athletics.  Remind all who use it that You will keep them strong on the race of faith in this life all of the way to eternal life where we will be with Jesus who won the race for us.   In His name we pray and sing our thanks to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

Hymn: “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”