The Geneva College class of 2009 has started a new tradition by becoming the first group of graduates in the school's 160-year history to walk underneath the new 60-foot-long arched gateway above the main entrance.
Four years ago, Geneva President Ken Smith promised freshmen that when they graduated, they would depart through the new front door of the Beaver Falls campus.
"This is very important to this class because for four years they had to maneuver around the construction" involved in the Beyond the Bend development project that is bringing many changes and improvements.
"The campus was very different four years ago when the students entered Geneva College. They were very different, too," Dr. Smith said. "Our mission here at Geneva is to prepare students to fulfill God's calling in their life. When they leave here, they're ready to make an impact for Christ at work, at church, at home or in their community. Ushering them out of the campus and into the world is very fitting."
The Christian college was "founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith," says the school's Web site.
The recently installed archway at Route 18 and 31st Street is made of steel and curves 60 feet over the entrance driveway with 28-inch-high white letters spelling Geneva College, with the school emblem mounted in the center.
The entryway, which leads to a tree-lined, lighted boulevard, was open to traffic for adult and graduate commencement last Thursday night and for undergraduate commencement Saturday morning.
Dr. Smith held an additional graduation ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday following the traditional senior brunch. At the end of the ceremony, he led them through the archway, as he promised four years ago.
In August, incoming freshmen will become the first class to start their Geneva College careers by entering, as a class, beneath the arched entranceway.
Jendoco Construction Corp., of Pittsburgh, is the main contractor for Beyond the Bend.
Gray Welding in Braddock fabricated the archway. It weighs more than 6,200 pounds and is made up of 240 individual pieces. About 90 percent of the structure is recycled steel.
Columns on each side consist of light-colored sandstone and limestone trim designed to match stonework at the college's McCartney Library. That work was done by Harris Masonry Inc., of Green Tree.
The electrical contractor is Turney Electric, of Beaver Falls.
Geneva College has never had a main entrance to the campus. The college opened its doors in 1848 in Northwood, Ohio, and moved, in 1880, to Beaver Falls at the invitation of the town. The town grew up around the campus, Dr. Smith said.
The college became landlocked, and Route 18 bisected the campus. As part of the college's Beyond the Bend development plans, the school worked with state officials to reroute the state highway.
The new entrance to the college, Mackall Drive, has two lanes for entry and two lanes for exit. Landscaped islands are on the middle of the boulevard. Thirty-foot-tall lamp posts with acorn-shaped glass globes adorn Mackall Drive, which leads to a "wide roundabout" that provides access to all parts of campus.
The project includes renovations to the football stadium, which was constructed in 1920. NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath played there when he was in high school. The Beaver Falls High School football teams have competed there for decades.
The work is expected to be completed by this fall.
A broad base of support from alumni as well as private and government grants paid for improvement, Dr. Smith said. The National Football League contributed funds for the football stadium renovations.
Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at email@example.com or 412-722-0087.