Topping Brooks

April 27, 2007
Icy roads prevented the Houston donors of The Robbins Chapel in Brooks Village from being present at a "topping out" ceremony in January, but they were there in another way. Two Baylor University administrators found a signature of William Robbins, who, along with his wife Mary Jo made the chapel possible, and traced the signature with a permanent black marker onto a 7-foot beam that's now in place in one of the building's tallest towers.
"He is a very, very gracious and kind man," said Frank Shushok, dean for student learning & engagement. "We were disappointed that he couldn't be here." So he and former provost David Jeffrey, who knows William Robbins, found his signature and asked a student to trace it on the beam.
Stressing the donors' presence was important because the chapel at Brooks Village could not have been done without them, Shushok added. The contribution will provide students a place for everyday prayer, meditation and worship.
"Mary Jo and I are happy to make this contribution," Robbins said. "We believe building a place for private prayer and small group worship at the heart of a living-learning community is a meaningful way to encourage faithfulness to Christ in the daily life of students, and is integral to the Baylor 2012 Vision."
The Robbins Chapel supports both the second and sixth imperatives of Baylor 2012: to create a truly residential campus, and to guide all Baylor students through academic and student life programming to understand life as a stewardship and work as a vocation.
"We understand better that our lives can be used to give glory to God if we can find places of sanctuary in our daily lives," said Dub Oliver, vice president for student life. "At Baylor, we try to be very thoughtful about the sense of place in students' lives, and The Robbins Chapel is going to be a beautiful place, a place of reflection, meditation and prayer. As students walk by the chapel each day, they'll be reminded of God's love for them."
The "topping out" ceremony Jan. 19 marked the midpoint of construction on Brooks Village, when students, faculty and staff celebrated the placing of the highest piece of steel in the project. Hundreds of Baylor students, faculty and staff signed the beam, which was draped with U.S. and Texas flags.
The significance of the installation of the highest beam in a construction project represents hundreds of years of tradition, said Espen Brooks, vice president for Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the firm constructing Brooks Village.
Brooks said the tradition could be traced to 2700 B.C., when builders of the Step Pyramid in Egypt placed live plants on the top of the pyramid in remembrance of those who had lost their lives during construction.
At 252,000 square feet, Brooks Village will accommodate 700 students in two new residential quadrangles: Brooks College, a traditional residential college that will offer 384 students across all disciplines and classifications the opportunity to live and learn in a community that is faculty-led, and Brooks Flats, a group of residential flats similar to Baylor's North Village layout providing 316 beds for upper-division students.
The architecture of the new Brooks Village will incorporate many of the external features of Baylor's historic Brooks Hall, including the landmark Brooks Arch. In addition to The Robbins Chapel, the new residential community also will feature a great hall, dining room, library and resource center, group study rooms and classrooms. The target completion date and dedication of the $42.8 million project is fall.
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