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Buena Vista University 2021 Year in Review

December 27, 2021 1:15pm

(story by Tim Gallagher)

Enrollment growth for the third consecutive year highlighted Buena Vista University developments in 2021. Enrollment on BVU’s campus in Storm Lake rose to 777 students, a six-percent hike. Total enrollment, including undergraduates, graduate students, and students taking classes online, came to 1,959 students, an eight-percent climb since 2018.

Several initiatives and programming efforts at BVU were in the news during the past year, all of which had an impact on students and the BVU community.

Buena Vista University celebrated the Inauguration of President Brian Lenzmeier in October. BVU’s 19th President was joined on stage in Schaller Memorial Chapel by his wife, Betsy, and their two sons, Owen and Matt.

“I want to mention how humbling it is to stand here right now,” Lenzmeier said. “I love BVU. I love the people with whom I work. I love seeing what our students do while they are with us, and what they accomplish after they graduate. I want more than anything to see BVU and its stakeholders thrive.”

Five days following the inauguration ceremony, nationally acclaimed photographer Andre D. Wagner, a 2010 BVU graduate, joined an estimated 150 students, faculty, staff, and friends in opening, “Andre D. Wagner: Reflections in Storm Lake,” at the BVU Art Gallery. Wagner’s work throughout September and October was showcased in an exhibit that capped his monthlong stay as BVU Artist in Residence.

For the first time in years, the tailgating area east of J. Leslie Rollins Stadium reached vehicle capacity hours before the BVU Homecoming kickoff. Several hundred fans enjoyed the sun-splashed scene and a great outcome on the Peterson Field as the Beavers defeated Nebraska-Wesleyan, 50-7, on a picture-perfect October day by the lake.

The weather at the same site showed its contrast in styles on Mother’s Day weekend as BVU hosted three outdoor Commencement ceremonies in efforts to observe COVID-19 safety protocols. A chilling wind from the southeast gusted from the lake for the Class of 2021 ceremony on Saturday. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s greeted graduates and their families as BVU celebrated a pair of Commencement ceremonies the following day, one for those earning master’s degrees (2020 and 2021), and another for the Class of 2020, whose formal Commencement had been postponed 12 months prior.

Governor Kim Reynolds joined a host of Storm Lake and area leaders in formally opening The Foundry in downtown Storm Lake in June. The business incubator also serves as a co-working space for start-up companies, a central tenet in The Donald F. and Charlene K. Lamberti Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.

An anonymous benefactor’s gift of $830,000 was announced in October, as Vice President for Enrollment Management Kevin McIntyre detailed how the gift would be used in helping 320 economically disadvantaged students from the Midwest lower collegiate debt.

Two-hundred-eighty benefactors presented gifts totaling more than $54,000 in the University’s most successful effort on November 30th, International Giving Tuesday, a day in which nonprofits throughout the world celebrate philanthropy.

An estimated 700 people came to Schaller Memorial Chapel for the Buena Vista County appearance by Simon Estes and his “Roots & Wings” tour on November 21st.  Estes, Iowa’s legendary bass-baritone, sang with the BVU Concert Choir as well as choir students from the following high schools in BV County: Storm Lake High School, St. Mary’s, Alta-Aurelia, and Newell-Fonda. Estes, a world-class philanthropist, joined BVU in presenting scholarships to four local high school students.

Dozens of BVU students who major in education and/or social work served as educators for more than 500 students who took part in a summer school program overseen by the Storm Lake Community School District. A benefactor’s gift allowed students to reside on campus for free while they served the community in helping students erase educational and social gaps brought on by school closures related to COVID-19.

Members of BVU’s Student Association of Social Workers opened Jane’s Closet, a Swope Hall site providing free clothing and materials for area foster care families. The site is named for Jane Addams, a pioneer in social reforms who earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Addams was the sister-in-law of the late BVU President John M. Linn, who served BVU from 1892-94.

BVU’s Lehnus Campus Spirit Store opened in the site of the former bookstore within Siebens Forum. The store did a steady business throughout the Fall Semester, reaching the pinnacle of activity during Homecoming when thousands were on campus celebrating athletic events, a BVU Athletics Hall of Fame induction, Cornerstone Guard ceremony, Fall Visit Day for prospective students, and more.

New Beaver-branded items have proven to be a hit with the BVU community at the Spirit Store. New navy-and-gold looks carried into areas of BVU Athletics, which received updates in artwork, decals, paint and more.

Citing the rebirth of the Lake Creek Amateur, a rise in junior golf participation, and more, the Buena Vista University Golf Course at Lake Creek was selected as Iowa’s Top 18-Hole Golf Course for 2021 by the Iowa Golf Association in November.

Along the way, other areas and initiatives enjoyed success in 2021. Health Services, which kept extremely busy throughout the pandemic, relocated from the lower level of Siebens Fieldhouse to a self-contained Wellness Center, including Counseling Services, on the second floor of Dixon-Eilers Hall, a location offering more space and additional privacy for students, faculty, and staff seeking services.

Cooper, BVU’s service dog-in-training, began offering his therapeutic touch to students, faculty and staff. Beaver senior defensive back Derien “Deebo” Beauregard participated in a segment televised by WHO-TV’s Keith Murphy, who took to Twitter to claim “Deebo” as his favorite college football player of the season.

Dr. Thom Bonagura, Dean of the School of Science, showed livestock at the Buena Vista County Fair as BVU and the Institute for Agriculture hosted the Open Livestock Show for the second straight year.

Speaking of fairs…thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni visited BVU’s popular booth at the Iowa State Fair and affixed their signatures and best wishes for their alma mater on a new alumni wall.