LeClaire Hall/Higgins Hall Groundbreaking


10/07/2021

St. Ambrose University today unveiled plans for an $8 million renovation that will transform the second-oldest building on campus into the Higgins Hall for Innovation and Human-Centered Design.

Facilitated in part by a significant donation from SAU alumnus and trustee Tom Higgins '67, the near-total interior renovation of the 105-year-old building long known as LeClaire Hall will begin in the spring of 2022, with an anticipated re-opening in Fall 2023. Read the news story by OurQuadCities.com

Once completed, the building will feature five modern classrooms and more than 20 offices. It initially will house the St. Ambrose School of Social Work, the Institute for Person-Centered Care and the Master of Public Health program.
The announcement follows by less than a week the inauguration of St. Ambrose President Amy Novak, EdD. The announced plan puts her inaugural themes of inclusivity and innovation into action by imagining new means of reaching and teaching the next generation of learners, and by enlisting the varied and individualized ways those students process information.

"What Tom is envisioning is how we more intentionally provide support services and a holistic experience for students in all disciplines on our campus," Dr. Novak said. "If we're looking at the future of higher education, it rests with how we know a student best. Can we create a customized experience by recognizing their strengths, where they're vulnerable, and understanding their learning style? Can we deliver a tailored learning experience?"

A previous $1 million donation from Higgins led to the creation of the MPH program and the IPCC, both of which debuted in the fall of 2017 and currently are based at the Center for Health Sciences Education on Lombard Street. Higgins also contributed funding that helped the School of Social Work add a Bachelor of Social Work degree to a master's program that began in 1995.

Higgins Hall of Innovation and Human-Centered Design


Concept drawings of a portion of the building's interior show a small lecture hall that incorporates the building's 105-year-old elevated track.

Advancing a mode of healthcare delivery designed to meet the needs of a patient and their family has been a passion for Higgins throughout his professional life. That includes chairing the Iowa General Assembly's Health and Human Services Committee while serving three terms in elected office less than a decade beyond his St. Ambrose graduation. He later worked in President Jimmy Carter's administration, starting as a senior executive in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At the conclusion of Carter's term, Higgins was a senior White House aide with an office directly above the Oval Office.

Higgins also headed the Department of Health and Social Services for Portland, Oregon; started a weekly national newspaper covering nationwide health news and trends; served as vice president for Maryland's largest health insurance provider; and founded Prosetta Biosciences Inc.

Along the way, he became a strong advocate for person-centered healthcare practice.

The Higgins Hall for Innovation and Human-Centered Design will build upon the IPCC's foundational mission to create a more collaborative approach to treating the "whole person." Higgins said the Human-Centered Design concept ultimately could be built into the curricula of such SAU programs as EngineeringEducationComputer Science and multiple programs in the College of Business.

In a meeting in California prior to Dr. Novak's start at St. Ambrose, Higgins was pleased to learn his values and vision for the future of Higgins Hall and St. Ambrose University were fully aligned with those of the incoming president.

"I would say we had an immediate meeting of the minds," Higgins said. "She put a particular emphasis on human-centered design, which, of course, fits very well with person-centered care. More to the point, she has a vision for St. Ambrose to produce graduates who can really help in the transformation of our economy and the nature of work and service in that economy."

Novak said Higgins' keen understanding of the university's core mission values and support for incorporating those into preparing St. Ambrose graduates to lead in the modern workforce will be invaluable assets in growing innovation and inclusiveness at SAU.

Higgins' gift toward the renovation of LeClaire Hall was approved more than two years ago by former President Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD '21 (Hon.) and the Cabinet.

Design of the new interior was done by Studio 483 Architects. Estes Construction will be the lead contractor.

Learn more about philanthropy at sau.edu/giving

News Coverage

St. Ambrose announces groundbreaking on hall focused on human-centered design (Dispatch/Argus)

St. Ambrose holds groundbreaking for $8M transformation of 105-year-old LeClaire Hall (OurQuadCities.com)

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