August 27, 2008 Edition

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WBC breaks ground
on Manley Chapel



Among those participating Thursday in the ceremonial groundbreaking for construction of the Manley Chapel at Williams Baptist College were (from left): Dr. Jerol Swaim, WBC president; Suzy and Steve Manley, who committed over $1 million for the project; Frank Shall of Batesville, chairman of the WBC board of trustees, Dr. Gary Edwards of Newark, member of the board of trustees; Jerry Krennerich of Brackett-Krennerich & Associates Architects in Jonesboro; and Ross Rainwater, member of the board of trustees.
TD Photo ~ John Bland
Officials at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge gave a ceremonial start last Thursday to the construction of Manley Chapel. The college held a formal groundbreaking for the chapel, which stands to be one of the most prominent structures ever built at the school.

"We are truly blessed today to be able to launch this great project," said Dr. Jerol Swaim, WBC's president. "We have prayed for many years to have a facility like Manley Chapel, and now we are going to watch this beautiful building take shape."

Among those turning the ceremonial spade of soil were Steve and Suzy Manley. Steve Manley is the CEO of Universal Asset Management, which operates a plant at the nearby Walnut Ridge Regional Airport. His vision for the chapel and his commitment of over $1 million toward its construction were the impetus for the project.

"We look forward to this chapel as an iconic structure that will stand as a sentinel over the future growth of this college," Manley said. "We want the chapel to add to the special feeling people get when they come to the Williams campus and to help them know they're in a special place."

The chapel is indeed designed to be an icon on the Williams campus. It will stand over 50 feet tall when completed, sporting a stacked stone exterior, a skylight that runs the length of the chapel and expansive windows along either side. Exposed wooden beams will highlight the cathedral ceiling.

The chapel will also serve a very practical purpose, allowing the college to seat its entire student body for weekly chapel services, with some room to grow. Chapel services are currently held in the college's gymnasium.

Manley Chapel, which is to have over 8,000 square feet of floor space, will seat 550 comfortably. Total cost of the construction project is expected to be about $3 million. The expected completion date for the chapel is June of '09.

"It is very difficult to finds words adequate to express our gratitude to Steve Manley. Steve approached us with the vision for this chapel, and he has been a great partner as we have developed the plans and gotten to this point of the project," Swaim said.

Initial groundwork for the project actually began a few weeks ago, but the college waited until Thursday, when faculty and many staff returned from their summer vacation, for the formal groundbreaking. Classes for the fall semester at Williams begin today.

The chapel is designed by Brackett-Krennerich & Associates Architects and is being built by Tate General Contractors. Both firms are headquartered in Jonesboro.

Swaim also noted that the existing WBC Chapel will remain just as it is after the new chapel is completed. The older chapel dates back to World War II, when the Williams campus was a military base. Swaim said the structure will continue to be used for dramas, lectures and other functions, as it is currently utilized.

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