Moravec Hall: Ivy Tech – Columbus officials mark opening of new campus building

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Ivy Tech Columbus Chancellor Steven Combs thanks his faculty and staff members during a ribbon cutting ceremony for Ivy Tech Columbus’ new campus building in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022. The building is named after local philanthropist and business owner Tony Moravec.

More than 200 people watched and cheered as the new main building for Ivy Tech Community College was officially opened.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday at Moravec Hall, 4475 Central Ave., in the Columbus AirPark area. The 80,000 square-foot facility replaces the now-demolished Poling Hall, which served as the main campus building since 1983.

While Moravec Hall has roughly the same square footage as Poling Hall, the new building represents a $32 million investment. Poling Hall cost only about $4.5 million.

While inflation was certainly a factor, “the new building contains labs that are so high tech that I think students are going to be attracted because of the real life experience they can get,” Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cindy Frey said.

Those labs include advanced technology and sophisticated simulation labs to provide students with hands-on experiences, That includes a surgical technology operating room, nursing simulation lab, education learning lab, visual communications creative lab, information technology networking lab and data center.

Ivy Tech Director of Marketing Chris Schilling said the labs will assist educators in teaching several subjects that include business, education, dental assisting, surgical technology and nursing.

New this semester is the School of Entrepreneurship, he said.

“We offer students the opportunity to learn how to start up a business, how to run the business, how to get it off the ground and how to work with others to pursue that dream,” Schilling said. “There are those with an innovative spirit and this is a program for them.”

Jesse Brand, a Columbus native who serves on the college’s state board of trustees, said he can remember when Ivy Tech acquired the old Armory building at Seventh and Franklin streets in late 1968.

“This is a world away from that,” Brand said. “Having a college campus in our community that offers such an obtainable opportunity for higher education is such a boon for our residents. It means you do not need to leave Columbus to earn a degree and start your career.”

Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann said her first memory of promoting the new building was bringing an old, rusty pipe taken from Poling Hall to the statehouse to show the need for a new facility.

“This building was 10 years in the making,” Ellspermann said. “My instruction is that this campus needs to be flexible. It will need to grow with us over time.”

In 2019, the Indiana General Assembly provided funds for what would become Moravec Hall. Once the money was obtained, the college received support from the Cummins Foundation Architecture Program, which provided the design fees to the San Francisco, California firm of IwamotoScott Architecture.

After meeting with many involved individuals, architect Lisa Iwamoto said she wanted to make sure she and her staff met Ivy Tech’s needs and created a campus building with lots of impact, as well as open, vibrant sets of spaces.

“It was such an honor for our firm to design this building in Columbus, Indiana,” Iwamoto said during the ceremony. “It represented the opportunity to work on this project in a community known for its architectural legacy.”

Once design and preliminary engineering work was complete, groundbreaking took place on April 1, 2021, with the Indianapolis firm Pepper Construction serving as lead construction contractor.

Like nearly every other construction contract in the past three years, Pepper Construction faced difficult challenges daily that included the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and labor shortages, lead project director Patrick Kinder said.

Nevertheless, construction came in on budget and on schedule, he said. Kinder gave his thanks to Ivy Tech, describing them as a “great client, partner and customer.” But most of his appreciation was expressed to dedicated designers, as well as about two dozen subcontractors and suppliers.

It was announced on Sept. 20, 2021 that the new building would be named after Tony Moravec, who was appointed to represent the city of Columbus on the Ivy Tech Foundation Board in 2009. He was later appointed to Ivy Tech’s state board of trustees in 2014.

Moravec – who owns Applied Laboratories, Blairex Laboratories, Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum and is a principal owner of Columbus Upland Pump House – also has a 30-year legacy of giving to the college.

He is providing an endowed scholarship for students in science, technology, engineering and mechanics (STEM) classes.

Staff began moving into the new building in March. On May 27, a dental assisting class was the first to meet in the new building, followed by a limited number of classes over the summer. The fall semester, which began Aug. 23, marked the first time that students attended classes in Moravec Hall.

Those who drop by the campus to see the new building may consider a brief stroll to the Columbus Learning Center, which has just completed major rennovations.

The first floor has been redesigned to provide greater services for students, according to John Burnett, president and CEO of the local Community Education Coalition. It contains a bookstore as well as two new facilities. One is called The Bridge, which is designed to connect students with educational resources and career opportunities. The other facility is called The Landing, which Burnett says provides a place where students can meet, study and relax in a welcoming space.

The building’s namesake

Tony Moravec received an enthusiastic and long standing ovation Wednesday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Moravec Hall, the new main building for Ivy Tech Community Columbus that bears his name.

After thanking members of his family who were present, Moravec kept his address short by only adding words of advice from his ancestors.

“Grandmother used to say ‘Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without’,” Moravec said. “Grandpa used to say: ‘Do your job like you own the business. Maybe, someday, you will’. Mother used to say: ‘Get an education. They can take your house, they can take your car, but they can’t take your education’. And Father used to say: ‘Leave the place a better place than you found it.’ Along the way, I’ve picked up a few remnants of my own: ‘Be bold in everything you do. It has a magic about it’ and ‘Bite off more than you can chew. And chew like hell’.”