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It's the largest fundraising goal for a single project in Wartburg College history, an effort to raise $9 million to renovate two of the oldest student residence halls on campus.

Wartburg officials have announced plans to refurbish Centennial and Vollmer Halls, which typically house about half of the college’s first-year students each year. The adjoining buildings were constructed in 1953 and 1956, respectively.

Thanks to a generous lead gift, the Wartburg Board of Regents has authorized the fundraising effort to move forward with the public phase of the campaign. Jack and Sarah Salzwedal, both 1982 Wartburg alumni from Madison, Wis., recently committed $2 million toward the project.

“The Board is excited to see the early gift support provided during this project’s quiet phase, and now is the time to take our fundraising efforts public and engage the entire Wartburg community in helping to make this critical investment in our students’ living and learning experience,” Mike McCoy, chair of the Board of Regents, said in a press release announcing the lead gift. “We’re confident our alumni, parents and friends will respond generously as we work to reach our $9 million goal over the next 12 months.”

The college hopes to raise the full $9 million by June 1, 2022. The Salzwedels’ gift, along with a handful of other early leadership gifts, has pushed the initial fundraising total to $5 million, the press release said.

Total cost of the entire project is estimated to be around $11 million. Wartburg officials said the college plans to apply for $2 million in State of Iowa Historical Tax Credits.

Renovation plans feature a new HVAC system, which integrates fresh air in individual rooms. The project also includes all new restroom and shower facilities, a fire sprinkler system and an electrical and plumbing overhaul. Several suites, combining individual sleeping spaces and bathrooms, will allow the college to better serve students needing special accommodations.

An addition to the building’s northeast side will create space for an elevator and enhanced accessibility, plus expanded community spaces. A new lounge surrounded by a kitchen and individual or group student study rooms would be added.

If the college reaches the fundraising goal by June 1, construction could begin next spring and be complete before the start of Fall Term classes in 2022.

The Salzwedels have had three children attend Wartburg. Jack is CEO of American Family Insurance and has served as faculty-in-residence, co-teaching a May Term leadership course the college. He also served on the Wartburg’s Board of Regents for nine years.

Strong supporters of Wartburg, the couple’s previous gifts have enhanced a soccer stadium on campus, as well as created the Slife Institute for Social Work Consultation, Research, and Training, named in honor of Sarah’s parents, the late Harry and Polly Slife of Cedar Falls.

“Sarah and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the educational experience our three sons enjoyed at Wartburg, and the residential environment was an important element in their student success,” Jack Salzwedal said. “This renovation will enable all first-year students to experience a safe, accessible and comfortable place to call home, and we encourage our fellow alumni to join us in making this project a reality.”

According to Wartburg President Darrel Colson, the Waverly college is in the midst of a new strategic planning process. He said the renovation of Centennial and Vollmer Halls will support the college’s goal of enhancing facilities to create a more nurturing and engaging environment for students.

“We are grateful to Sarah and Jack for their extraordinary generosity, but also for encouraging us to look beyond just a new building, for pushing us to envision how these new spaces can demonstrate our commitment to creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for our students,” Colson said. “They’ve inspired us to think in creative and innovative ways, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Other leadership gift commitments in support of the project include $1.5 million from the Franklin I. and Irene List Saemann Foundation and $1 million from Mike and Marge McCoy.

Hebron Hall, a residence hall adjacent to Centennial, will not be renovated at this time, Wartburg officials stated. They said the Hebron is a newer facility that has its own heating and electrical systems.

The other residence hall housing primarily first-year students, Clinton Hall, was renovated in 2016 at a cost of $8 million.

Nearly 85 percent of Wartburg’s 1,564 students reside on campus.

Jack and Sarah Salzwedal

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