April 18, 2007 Edition

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Manley to give $1 million
for new WBC Chapel


Steve Manley, CEO of Universal Asset Management (left), and Williams Baptist College President Jerol Swaim look over plans for a new chapel to be constructed at WBC. Manley has pledged $1 million to help construct the new facility.

A $1 million gift from the CEO of Universal Asset Management will make possible a new chapel on the campus of Williams Baptist College. Steve Manley is providing the gift, which is the impetus for a classically designed chapel to be built across the street from WBC's Southerland-Mabee Center.

"This is a tremendous gift that is going to make a tremendous impact on WBC," said Williams President Jerol Swaim. "Steve Manley's generosity, as well as his vision for this chapel, will provide a worshipful setting for our students and an iconic structure for the campus as a whole."

The 8,000-square-foot chapel will stand nearly 60 feet tall, making it the tallest building on the Williams campus. It will sport a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams, as well as a large skylight and tall, mission-style windows to give occupants a sense of the outdoors. The exterior will feature a combination of stacked stone and brick.

The building is designed to seat over 550 comfortably, according to Swaim, which will allow the four-year, liberal arts college to hold its weekly chapel services there.

"Our numbers have grown to the point that we've had to hold chapel in the college gymnasium for several years now. We have a great need for a truly worshipful setting for chapel services, and this structure fills that need wonderfully," the president said.

Manley's company, UAM, operates a facility at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport's Swindle Field, near the Williams campus. The company, which deals in parts for airplanes, is known for the large jetliners it brings to the airport.

Manley said UAM's proximity to Williams enabled him to become familiar with the college and motivated him to make such a substantial gift.

"To be honest, more than anything else, this is just a special place," he said. "I don't have to drive through here on my way to our facility, because it's actually the long way, but I always do. The reason is that I get such a special feeling here."

The CEO said he was inspired by a visit to Thorncrown Chapel at Eureka Springs, and he wanted to help build a structure that would provide a similar feel on the Williams campus. "I wanted a building that would be special to add to a place that is already special," Manley commented.

Swaim noted that Manley's interest in WBC has been very gratifying to the college. "Steve has clearly perceived the spirit of the Williams campus and the progress we have been blessed with over the past decade or so. The fact that he wants to be a part of that progress is very flattering to us," he said.

The president said that the chapel will help WBC develop Midkiff Lawn as a centerpiece of the campus.

"The chapel will be built on the north end of the lawn with a beautiful plaza in front of it. The architects are excited about the way this structure will define the lawn and make it an attractive green space in the center of the campus," Swaim said.

Swaim also noted that the current WBC Chapel will remain just as it is, and it will continue to host college dramas and other special functions.

The total cost of the chapel project is expected to be about $2 million, and the college is working to raise the remaining necessary funding. The WBC president said current plans call for construction to commence by late 2007. The chapel is being designed by Brackett-Krennerich Architects of Jonesboro.

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