New Family Theology Center Under Construction at Whitworth University

By Rachel Leber

SPOKANE, Wash. —  As a university with a strong affiliation to the Presbyterian church, theology is a deeply integrated element of the culture at Whitworth University in Spokane. To demonstrate its importance, a new theology center is currently under construction, to be named the Beeksma Family Theology Center.

The addition of the Beeksma Family Theology Center will make it possible to house the theology department, the Office of Church Engagement as well as the campus ministry all in one building. The addition will be connected to the Seeley G. Mudd Chapel. The hope is that the addition will create “greater synergy” between the three programs, according to a recent statement from Whitworth University.

The addition of the Beeksma Family Theology Center will add 3,940 square feet to the already 6,000-square-foot facility. Construction began in late March 2018 and is slated for completion in September, with a short six-month construction schedule.

Integrus is the architect on the project, with Bouten Construction serving as the general contractor — both companies are based in Spokane. The center is being named after two Whitworth Alumni Barney and Joyce Beeksma. The couple donated a gift of $1.5 million toward the project, which has a total budget of $2.8 million.

The new theology center will feature offices for faculty, staff and student employees as well as space for collaboration and gatherings for students. Included in this number is a total of 13 offices in the expansion wing, nine for theology faculty and four offices for the Office of Church Engagement, according to Fred Johnston, project manager at Whitworth University Facilities Services. In addition, renovations on the chapel will provide more seating as well as new and improved audiovisual systems.  

“The design elements within these spaces are a balance of openness and privacy, providing visual lines and daylighting, while attempting to minimize distractions due to sound,” said Johnston. “The exterior face of the new expansion is also based around the desire to both see, and be seen by, the surrounding campus.”  

The new theology center will have a number of sustainable features integrated into the design. The building is constructed to Washington State’s energy code and is designed with durability and longevity in mind, according to Johnston. “During the design process, we attempt to keep in mind that our campus buildings could be in use for 50 to 100 years and plan accordingly,” said Johnston.”

Green elements in the building include water-saving fixtures, LED lighting and lighting controls, and an internal green space and garden for occupant use. In addition, there is a strategic use of glazing to provide occupants with natural daylight while still allowing privacy within offices, according to Johnston.

“This new addition, as well as renovation, has long been a point of discussion,” said Jerry Sittser, professor of theology at Whitworth University and senior fellow in the Office of Church Engagement, in a recent statement. “Finally, the time has arrived. We think the space is just right. It’s full of light, places to gather and wide hallways for conversation. Collaboration is a key principle at Whitworth. The Beeksma Family Theology Center will encourage just that. We are both grateful to the Beeksmas and other donors as well as to the administration for facilitating this expansion, and we are eager to move in.”