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UT Announces Construction of the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values

Published: May 22, 2008

Construction of the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values, which will be built in the center of The University of Tampa campus and promises to further strengthen UT students’ academic and personal development, will commence this summer, UT President Ronald L. Vaughn announced Thursday, May 22.

The project, which includes a 250-seat main hall, meeting and meditation rooms, pipe organ, a plaza and 60-bell musical sculpture/fountain, is being built through a multi-million dollar lead gift from John H. and Susan Sykes. The total project is valued at $19.5 million.

“We've been blessed to be a part of this university for 12 years now,” said John H. Sykes, a longtime UT benefactor who is the namesake of the John H. Sykes College of Business. “At the project’s foundation is the development of the minds and spirit of young people for generations to come.”

Vaughn said he is pleased that the Sykes’ gift can enhance UT’s educational mission. He added that the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values will continue the transformation of UT’s campus and further enrich the educational environment and experience.

“We are grateful to the Sykes for their gift that we believe will aid in students’ own discovery and development processes and support the study of world religions,” Vaughn said. “Universities have a key opportunity to support such student development, and now UT will be a model in this endeavor.”

The Chapel/Center is part of UT’s master plan, which was approved in 1996. “It is exciting to take another step in our master plan,” Vaughn added.

The planned 12,750 square foot, 65-foot vaulted, east-west oriented facility will be situated north of North B Street across from Brevard Hall, where old fairgrounds buildings were recently demolished. The building uses natural light as a primary design focus and will include architectural elements constructed of red brick, laminated timber, glass, granite, zinc roofing and decorative red cherry millwork. The Chapel/Center will include a main hall, meeting rooms, two meditation rooms, a foyer and vestibule. It is designed to seat 250 people in moveable seating for spiritual programs, speaking engagements, seminars, ceremonies, meetings and concerts.

“Flexibility is crucial to the building’s design in order to accommodate such a vast range of programs,” Vaughn said. Construction of the facility is tentatively scheduled to be completed by late fall 2009.

At present, UT has 10 student organizations that focus on religious issues and spiritual development. They include: Arab Student Association; Campus Crusade for Christ; Catholic Student Organization, Chabad Jewish Student Union, College Conversations: SPACE; Hillel, Indian Cultural Association; Intervarsity Christian Fellowship; Muslims Student Association; and, YoungLife. Extracurricular programming for the chapel will be coordinated by UT’s Office of Student Engagement and Leadership.

The acoustically-superior building will include two unique accompanying features – a 45-foot tall, 3,184-pipe custom-built organ, and a 75-foot outdoor musical sculpture/fountain (see more details, below). Both features are to be completed after the chapel is constructed.

A chapel that once was located on the third floor of Plant Hall had been converted to necessary academic office and classroom space.

The Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values will represent the seventh completely new building on UT’s campus in the past decade. The architect is Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates of Atlanta, and the construction firm will be Peter R. Brown Construction Inc. of Clearwater, FL.

The Pipe Organ
The 3,184-pipe, 45-foot mechanical action pipe organ will anchor the west end of the Chapel/Center and, when constructed, will be one of the largest of its kind in the southern U.S. It will be constructed by the Dobson Pipe Organ Builders of Lake City, Iowa, and is designed to complement the architecture. The organ’s horizontal and vertical pipes – which vary in size – will be made of either wood or tin alloy. The organ will be housed in a case made of solid American black cherry wood. “Because of its size, musical quality and the beauty of its setting, the organ will be one of the most notable organs in the South,” Vaughn said.

The Musical Sculpture/Fountain
Neither a bell tower, carillon or obelisk, the unique musical sculpture is a 75-foot lighted structure adorned with 60 bells. The entire structure is integrated as part of a plaza and water fountain with a variety of kinds of water flows. “We believe this grand musical sculpture and fountain will be the first of its kind in the United States,” Vaughn said.

John H. and Susan Sykes
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 renowned College of Business in his honor. In 2000, John and Susan Sykes made another multi-million dollar gift to help build the Vaughn Center. John H. Sykes is chairman emeritus of Sykes Enterprises Inc., a Tampa-based information technology company. In 1998 he received an honorary doctorate degree from UT in business and humane letters. Sykes was a former chairman of the Board of Trustees and is currently a chair emeritus.