PO BOX 5079 (51102)
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)


Briar Cliff University to dedicate Heelan Hall

Check out timelapse video of Heelan Hall construction

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

Construction is done and the reactions are in describing the newly refurbished Heelan Hall at Briar Cliff in Sioux City – amazing, wonderful and fantastic.

“The transformation of Heelan Hall is remarkable,” said Bev Wharton, president at Briar Cliff. “Our architects and contractors did a spectacular job of combining the original and modern features of this – our historic jewel on campus.  The newly-created space provides an urban setting, which particularly impresses our many alumni and visitors.” 

She added the expansive addition to Heelan Hall, the Roth Atrium, offers “a relaxing ambiance for studying, conversing and gathering.  And our new general purpose classrooms and labs are state-of-the-art learning facilities.”

The grand re-opening of Heelan Hall will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. on March 27 at Briar Cliff University, 3303 Rebecca St. An RSVP is requested for the grand re-opening online,, or by contacting Lorna Kohn at or (712) 279-1705.

Wharton said the university is focused “on the learners of today and tomorrow.  Our academic setting is our highest priority and it was time to improve Heelan Hall – the original building and main academic center on campus.”

BCU received many gifts from individuals and businesses, including the Diocese of Sioux City, a supporter of Briar Cliff University.  The university also received contributions from alumni and the employees of Briar Cliff University.  

“We are grateful to all who helped make the transformation of Heelan Hall a reality,” said the president. “We are blessed to have so many friends of Briar Cliff University with such a spirit of generosity. They have truly made a difference in the lives of our students and for that we are very grateful.”   

Construction process

Construction on Heelan Hall began the summer of 2011 and was completed the summer of 2013. Beth Grigsby, vice president of finance at Briar Cliff, was the university’s project manager for the project.

“The big pieces of the work were done during the summer when we have fewer classes and fewer students on campus,” she said. “The first summer was a little bit of demolition – the former Heelan Auditorium. Then the dirt work taking out the old parking lot was done.”

The next school year involved the steel and construction for the addition. The following summer of 2012 the heating and air conditioning was done throughout the entire building as well as renovation work on two of the floors of the original building.

This past summer the last pieces of construction were completed including the landscaping.

The addition to Heelan Hall includes classrooms and state of the art laboratories as well as creating the Roth Atrium, which is a gathering space.

“We moved the nursing lab from the ground floor to the second floor, so we had all of our sciences basically in the same area,” said Grigsby. “We moved mass communications a little bit from where it was. Then we moved the book store from Stark Student Center over to ground floor Heelan, just off the atrium. We did some rearranging of walls and moving of offices in the existing building.”

She pointed out the main change in the existing building is the heating and air conditioning, which is the first time the building has been air conditioned. The system is geothermal.

“It works like a heat pump does, but rather than being air to air transfer, it uses ground water,” explained Grigsby. “We have two supply wells and four injection wells. Those run side by side with a glycol system once it gets in the building. There are between 25 and 30 VUVs, units inside the building that control the temperature.”

There is a very large ceiling fan in the atrium that helps circulate air in the space.

Contractors, architects

The general contractor for the project was WA Klinger, who also built the original Heelan Hall, noted Grigsby.

The architects on the project were M+, Dale McKinney, in partnership with Substance Architecture from Des Moines, who brought experience in educational institutions to the project.

“Dale McKinney brought a local connection as well as his expertise in combining historical buildings with new construction,” said Grigsby. “We had a large number of subcontractors also. The main ones being Sutter Services for HVAC, Foulk Brothers for plumbing, Thompson Electric for the electrical and West Plains Engineering.”

Grigsby also wanted to acknowledge Jim Brygger, a retired architect, who served as the liaison between Briar Cliff and the contractors.

“We are very blessed to have had wonderful contractors on this project,” she said. “They did a wonderful job in working with us and the finished building is amazing. It is a wonderful addition to our campus for our students, employees, alumni and donors.”

The finished product

Heather Craig-Oldsen, associate professor, Social Work Program Director and Principal Investigator of the Siouxland Indian Child Welfare Traineeship, is finishing her 10th year at BCU.

“I am pleased with the changes and the responses we get from visitors to campus,” said the professor.  “The climate control has been a great help to the work and study environment. The central atrium is a wonderful place to meet and visit.”

Craig-Oldsen’s office even looks down on the atrium and she enjoys the view. Visitors tell her the new lighting makes her space look cozy and homey.

“We desperately needed more classroom space with adequate temperature control and modern technology,” she said.  “The changes have helped us focus on what we are all about – higher education and development of tomorrow’s leaders.”

Elizabeth Mangan, a junior biology major at BCU from Sioux City, started college during the construction process. Because of her major, she is enjoying the new science labs on the second floor in Heelan Hall.

“We have been blessed with a lot of new equipment that gives us a competitive edge a lot of students wouldn’t have had before the construction,” she said. “Some might not have seen these instruments or have learned these techniques until graduate school or an internship, so we are really progressing and getting new advanced technology for such a small school.”

To Mangan, the refurbished Heelan Hall is “wonderful. It is absolutely fantastic.” She pointed out the new construction has provided a lot of new opportunities.

Ethan Neff, a junior nursing major from Treynor, Iowa, thought it was interesting to be going to school in a “construction zone” for a couple years. He said there was always something new going on, and it was “awesome to see the progress of the building and renovation.”

“I like the new look and feel of the classrooms, especially the nursing lab,” he said. “The old nursing lab was very crowded and outdated. With the new nursing lab, there is more space, and better technology.”

This will help Neff in the future he said “because the use of technology will help better prepare ourselves for the workforce ahead, where all patient records and communication are digital.”

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