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Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values To Be Dedicated Dec. 10

Published: November 30, 2010
 On Friday, Dec. 10, The University of Tampa will dedicate a building that has become one of Tampa’s most unique structures and one of the University’s most impactful facilities on student life — the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values.

The 65-foot tall, 15,000-square-foot building is an interfaith facility intended to help students understand diversity, world religions and cultures, realize the importance of character, develop a sense of purpose and self-awareness through reflection, and learn to make decisions based on principles, beliefs and values.

The project, which has been on the campus’ master plan since 1996, was set in motion in May 2008, when Susan and John H. Sykes announced a lead gift to fund the $19.5 million center. The Sykes will speak at the dedication, along with UT President Ronald L. Vaughn and other UT administrators, donors, faculty and students. The dedication will be held at 2 p.m. on campus. For members of the public who wish to attend, RSVPs are requested at (813) 257-3019.

“This dedication is long awaited by many people and for many different reasons,” Vaughn said. “Having such a place will elevate the intellectual discourse at UT and nurture the development of character and values of our students.”

The centrally-located building includes a 260-seat main hall, meeting and meditation rooms, art glass and sculpture, and two meditation gardens. The Chapel/Center’s exterior of brick and granite, as well as the zinc roof, references UT’s tradition of brick construction at UT, as well as the stainless steel minarets atop Plant Hall. Glass, warm cherry wood and granite graces the interior, as well as extensive use of natural light.

Perhaps most notable in the Chapel/Center is the 3,184-pipe custom-built pipe organ, which soars 55 feet tall in the west end of the main hall. Built by Dobson Pipe Organ Ltd., the organ will be ranked as a premier instrument in the state and region and among the most notable organs in the country. A “first sounding” of the organ will be held at the dedication, along with tours of the entire building and surrounding gardens — the Sunrise Garden to the east and the intimate Sykes Meditation Garden to the west.

Organ concerts have already been scheduled for dates in January, February, March and April. For more information, go to

The art glass in the meditation rooms and doorways were designed by glass artist Guy Kemper, and the granite and stainless steel sculpture in the meditation garden was designed by sculptor Clint Button.

There are currently nine student organizations on campus where discussions on character, values and religious issues are the primary focus. Plus, UT has more than 30 partnerships with community places of worship in the Tampa Bay area.

“Having such a beautiful facility in the heart of campus reminds everyone that a full existence has multiple components: intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual,” said Joseph Sclafani, professor of psychology and member of the Resource Team for Faith, Values and Spirituality, which will help direct programming at the Chapel/Center.

John H. and Susan Sykes have been longtime benefactors of The University of Tampa. In 1999 the University acknowledged John H. Sykes by naming its College of Business in his honor. In 2000, John and Susan Sykes made another gift to help build the Vaughn Center. The current chair of UT’s Board of Trustees, Gene McNichols, and his family also contributed significantly to the funding of the chapel.

“We remain grateful to the Sykes, and the McNichols, for their gifts that we believe will aid in students’ own discovery and development processes and support deeper understanding of world religions and cultures,” Vaughn said.

In the future, the Chapel/Center will anchor a quadrangle plaza suitable for a wide range of campus events and student gatherings.

“The incredible amount of research and careful attention to detail at each stage of the project ensures the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values will be a special place for decades to come,” Vaughn said.

The Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values will represent the 12th completely new building on UT’s campus in the past decade.

The project architect was tvsdesign of Atlanta, and the contractor was Peter R. Brown of St. Petersburg.