December 08, 2021
Ground-breaking of new land

Catholic University held a groundbreaking and blessing for a new nursing and science building on Dec. 6 with high tech facilities and double the space of the current home of the nationally-ranked Conway School of Nursing.

“With the new building for which we break ground today, we’ll be able to double our enrollment, and increase the size of our faculty. We will bring the foremost technological advances into play to help educate the next generations of Catholic University nurses with state-of-the-art labs and classroom spaces. Today, we begin the journey that will lay the foundation for the future of Catholic University nursing education,” said President John Garvey in his remarks.

Philanthropist Bill Conway thanked God for providing him and his wife with the resources to support “the Conway School of Nursing and the new building.” Conway and his wife Joanne have donated $40 million toward the construction, bringing their total support for the Conway School of Nursing to $80 million since 2013.

During a touching moment, Edward Garnett, a resident of the Brookland neighborhood, spoke about how Conway nursing students helped his family after one of his twins, now toddlers, faced serious medical needs after birth. 

“We needed extra help with the boys just to get through the days and nights. Many Catholic students babysit for families around the community. Given the ongoing medical issues we thought nursing students would be interested,” said Garnett.

“The students who worked for us without fail were highly qualified and treated our children with incredible gentleness and compassion,” he said. “We look forward to seeing the new building come to life, all the new encounters that will happen because of it, and are thankful for all that Catholic University has done and continues to do for the community.”

Also participating in the groundbreaking were Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, who gave the invocation. He is a University alumnus and member of the board of trustees. Patricia McMullen, dean emerita of the nursing school; and Robert Moser, CEO of Clark Construction also spoke. Members of the University’s Board of Trustees attended, as well as community partners, city officials, donors, and students.

During McMullen’s tenure, the school rose in national rankings and the pass rate on the national licensing exam for graduates increased from 67% to nearly 100%. She also has been instrumental in helping raise $90 million in philanthropic donations for the nursing school through the University’s Light the Way Campaign. 

McMullen said, “The wonderful thing about nursing is that we take people as they are—we provide care to the poorest among us as well as the wealthiest. Indeed, disease is an ironic leveler.”

She added, “We have shared our gifts to educate students who leave us with outstanding knowledge and skills. They in turn have used their talents in service to those in need—patients who are ill and require excellent nursing care; families who ask us to demystify a complex health care system; communities who are coping with a pandemic. And, we’ve witnessed how those who have believed in us have also made considerable sacrifices to help us realize the dream of increasing the numbers of nurses through their donations of funds, talents, and time. Know that we are so grateful to all of you!”

“We are so proud to be trusted to help turn this vision of the nursing school and science building into a reality. I cannot think of a more noble charge than helping to build a structure that will enhance the education and training of individuals who play such a critical role in the health of our communities,” said Moser. 

Paige Wilderotter, senior nursing major, attended the ceremony because, “Even though I probably won’t be here, I'm still so excited to see the new nursing building. I'm excited for students below me to go to classes and labs there. The building will create so many opportunities for students.”

The new 102,000-square-foot gothic-style building will double the space available for the school and include modern simulation suites, a virtual reality studio that is rare in universities nationally, flexible classrooms, seminar rooms, anatomy and physiology labs, and more. 

The exterior will be planted with environmentally sensitive vegetation and a terrace garden. As part of Catholic University’s commitment to sustainability and healthy workplaces, the University is seeking LEED gold environmental certification for the construction, as well as silver certification as a WELL building. WELL certification means a structure is built to enhance the users’ physical, emotional, and mental health. Achieving WELL certification would make Catholic University the first university on the east coast to receive that recognition.

The building design is by Ayers Saint Gross and Robert A. M. Stern Architects, with construction by Clark Construction Group. The Conway School of Nursing opened in 1935 and has 285 students in its in-person and online programs.