Berkel Stadium: Fostering Pride in the Students of St. Mary’s

As a purpose driven organization, Straub Construction is dedicated to working with customers that are like minded and focused on the bettering of their communities. One of these purpose driven customers is the University of St. Mary’s. Their mission is “The University of Saint Mary educates students of diverse backgrounds to realize their God-given potential and prepares them for value-centered lives and careers that contribute to the well-being of our global society.”

One of the ways that they live out their mission is by providing affordable education and scholarships to their students. Many of them are first generation college students, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to go to college. Thank you to Sister Diane Steele for furthering the mission of The University of St. Mary’s and for sharing your story with us.

Guest Post By: Sister Diane Steele, SCL, Ph.D.

Straub Construction: Berkel StadiumAnother semester is winding down at the University of St. Mary’s in Leavenworth, Kansas. Students are bustling around campus, enjoying the spring weather that finally arrived, and preparing for finals. As the president of USM, I enjoy walking around campus myself. Often, as I leave my office, I head north, past the red brick buildings of campus and around DePaul Library and up the hill to Berkel Memorial Stadium.

Throughout these warm spring days, a variety of students and faculty are using the stadium. Some runners make laps around the track. Our lacrosse team practices in the field. The staff working in the offices take their lunch breaks in the sun-soaked bleachers. It has become a central part of the community here at St. Mary’s.

The stadium is one of the newest additions to our campus. A few years ago, we received a generous donation and were able to create this state of the art facility for our students, and it truly has been transformative for our students.

The Impact on Students

Almost all of our 810 undergrad students receive scholarships to come here. A lot of those students (43%) are first-generation college students, and see their college education as the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in their families.

Some of our students come to us with almost nothing to their name except a desire to get their degree. For example, we had a student arrive on our doorstep this year with nothing but a suitcase and a backpack. We have supplied everything from food to glasses to finding someone to help pay his tuition. We believe he came to us for a reason and trusted that God would provide a way for us to help him get a degree.

We are called to see the face of God in everyone. It’s our mission to educate students of diverse backgrounds to realize their God-given potential and to prepare them for value-centered lives and careers that contribute to the well-being of our global society. So, to have such a beautiful place to practice and play reinforces this message to our students: that you are a child of God—an important and valued member of society.

The Beauty of Berkel

Straub Construction: Berkel StadiumBefore we had Berkel Stadium, our athletes were practicing and competing on a nearly barren field. We had enough funds to build a row of bleachers and a press box, but not much else. To go from that to a modern stadium with an AstroTurf field, a collegiate-level competition track, and a building with spacious locker rooms, a multi-use meeting space, offices, and ample storage was a night and day difference.

There are a variety of components that have made this multi-faceted facility integral to USM success:

  • Aesthetics: The field really elevated our athletic program to have the feel of a high-quality collegiate level space to practice and compete on. Both our students and our alum feel a sense of pride in the stadium.
  • Safety: The materials and design of the track, field, and facility were built with safety in mind. Before, if the football team practiced on a rainy day, the turf would be torn up and no one else could use the field. With AstroTurf, that problem is avoided altogether.
  • Entertainment: We love to host events for donors, alumni, our board of trustees, and the families of prospective students. The multi-use meeting space has been used by our faculty and staff as well as community members, including the Straub Construction team! They met there for an annual meeting.
  • Recruitment: The stadium has also become a tool for recruiting new students. We have a strong athletic program, with a football team, two lacrosse teams, two soccer teams, and a track team that is now tenth in the nation! Being able to use the Berkel Stadium is ideal for athletes, and it has brought our student body together, supporting our Spires in various athletic events throughout the year.

Working with the Straub Team

Straub Construction: Berkel StadiumIt was great working with the Straub team, from start to finish. I first met the Straub family several decades ago when Ernie Straub Jr. helped renovate the nunnery on campus into the first building for our new nursing program. When we got the funding for the stadium, we knew the Straub team would be the perfect fit.

The Straub team is a faith-based, family unit so you know that you’re dealing with integrity. They’re a hard-working crew committed to doing things with excellence. They take such pride in their work that they’re there early in the morning and late at night because it’s not just a job. There’s some personal pride involved.

While the project for Berkel Stadium has been complete for a while now, the legacy and impact of Straub Construction remain strong here on the USM campus.

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