By Peter Jennings
Kristian Thomas, Team GB Olympic Gymnastic Bronze Medal winner at London 2012, a local boy from Wolverhampton, officially opened the magnificent new £20 million St Chad Building at Newman University Birmingham, on Friday 1 February.
Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham, who was present, together with Bishop William Kenney CP, Auxiliary Birmingham of Birmingham, had blessed the building on 29 November 2011.
Kristian Thomas, a member of the Earls Gymnastics Club in Halesowen, near Birmingham, was part of the GB men’s team that won Britain’s first gymnastic Olympic medal in a hundred years.
During the opening, Kristian Thomas aged 23, a great role-model for young people, proudly wore his Olympic bronze medal round his neck during his short, from-the-heart, no notes, speech.
Kristian Thomas emphasised that hard-work, dedication, time – 25-30 hours a week training in the gym, effort and self-sacrifice, and the ability to keep going in adversity, were among the things necessary to be a successful Olympian.
Turning to the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Newman University Birmingham, Professor Peter Rolf Lutzeier, and the Revd Philip Rogerson, Vice-Chair of Governors, before he unveiled a special plaque, Kristian Thomas said: “You have done a remarkable job. This new building looks fantastic.”
The Revd Philip Rogerson, Vice-Chair of Governors and Chair of the Estates Committee, the committee which oversaw the design and building work said: “The St Chad Building came in on time and on budget. The disruption on campus was great but the complaints minimal.”
He added: “Our students deserve the best and the desks in the new library have individual lights.”
Earlier, in his speech of welcome and thanks, the dynamic Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Peter Rolf Lutzeier, said: “Today, we celebrate the Opening of St Chad, our splendid entrance and library building. St Chad is a building which in its position signals our presence in the community of Bartley Green, with its dynamic outline outside and the quality finish inside.
”At the front, near the entrance, is the Globe, a striking piece of art, which reflects the international dimension of Catholic Higher Education.”
The Vice-Chancellor said: “Today we celebrate the conclusion of a vision of becoming a university. It was Archbishop George Patrick Dwyer, who as Archbishop of Birmingham founded Newman College here during 1968.”
The Vice-Chancellor stressed: “Concluding a vision after 45 years is one thing, shaping and living towards a new one is another but we are up to that. To this day – and this will continue – we have shamelessly plagiarized some of the 19th century revolutionary ideas of Blessed John Henry Newman.”
The Vice-Chancellor concluded: “In the proud tradition of Catholic Higher Education all over the world, Newman University Birmingham will continue to make its contribution for the common good in this great city, the region and the nation as a whole.”
Among the many distinguished guests was the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Lines and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Kathleen Lines. The Lord Mayor went to school in Bartley Green and today he and the Lady Mayoress live not far from the new St Chad Building.
It was indeed a memorable and joyful occasion in the life of Newman University Birmingham, where this correspondent, many priests delegates and bishops spent numerous happy times at the annual National Conference of Priests of England and Wales, held at the old Newman College for more than 25 years.
Archbishop Bernard Longley pictured with left to right, Professor Peter Rolf Lutzeier, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Newman University Birmingham; The Lord and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham; and Team GB hero Kristian Thomas, during the Opening of the St Chad Building, at Newman University Birmingham, on 1 February 2013.
© Peter Jennings