SUU secures final funding for child, family development center

Southern Utah University President Scott L. Wyatt and his wife Kathy Wyatt reading to a class, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of SUU, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Additional funding has been secured for Southern Utah University’s Sorenson Legacy Child and Family Development Center, allowing renovation construction to begin this July, with plans for the center to be completed and operational by August 2020.

The center, a much-anticipated project, is committed to the retention and graduation of SUU students by providing a high-quality facility offering on-campus child care, a preschool lab and parent and family support, according to a press release from the university.

SUU has now secured gifts, pledges and capital improvement funding for a total of $2.9 million. The most recent funds come from an additional $1.5 million in capital development funding and $300,000 pledged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation. The foundation’s pledge was motivated by SUU’s decision to repurpose the university president’s home to serve the needs of students and their children.

Additional donors include Sorenson Legacy Foundation for whom the center is named, Emma Eccles Jones Foundation, Dixie and Anne Leavitt Family Foundation, Eric and Melissa Leavitt, Mark and Jana Leavitt, Dr. Robert and Sydney Nakken and many other donors including numerous campus employees.

“It is absolutely thrilling to know this Center will be up and running in a year,” Kathy Wyatt, SUU first lady and steering committee chairwoman of the center, said in the press release. “I am grateful, not only to the foundations who have donated significant amounts but also for many individuals who saw the need for such a facility and gave whatever they could. Because of their generosity, hundreds of students will be able to pursue their education and achieve financial security for their families.”

The 11,000-square-foot institutional residence will be repurposed as the center, offering a cost-saving solution of more than 50 percent less of the construction of a new facility.

That decision offers children attending the center to enter a home for their care and early-learning experiences.

“I know of few people who would put their own convenience and comfort aside to meet the greatest need of a student population,” said Donna Law, executive director of development and government relations at SUU. “However, this is the case for the Wyatts, who have also made a personal gift to the project and have asked our facilities management team to have the Center ready as soon as possible.”

Read more: SUU president to run 170 miles to raise money for on-campus day care center 

Along with providing a convenient on-campus location, Wyatt outlined several objectives for the center, including increasing female retention and graduation rates, affordable child care for students, flexible care hours, a safe and enriching environment for infants and toddlers, as well as a facility for SUU education students to use for practicum.

The building costs are budgeted at $2.1 million with the remaining $870,000 for soft costs that include design, furniture, fixtures and equipment. A preschool/child care center has some specific needs in regard to soft costs, including bringing a home up to commercial code, especially in regard to fire safety and ADA accessibility.

Adequate parking for staff and parents will be needed, and three separate playgrounds are required by code.

The Salt Lake City firm of ajc architects was selected for this project because of their experience with complex renovations, even adapting existing facilities into child care centers, said Ben Johnson, director of SUU construction services, space planning and maintenance.

Remodeling has begun on a new residence for the Wyatts. With the approval of the SUU Board of Trustees, SUU acquired the Warthen home at the corner of 200 West and University Boulevard in Cedar City in July 2017. Though many uses for the home were considered, ultimately Wyatt agreed this would be a suitable residence for his family given its convenient location to campus.

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