Our Lady of the Lake University launched a $55 million campaign, the largest in the university’s 125-year history, that will fund projects to benefit both students and the community.

With $46 million already raised, OLLU expects to meet the campaign goal in 2023, the same year the university will celebrate the centennial of its historic Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel.

University President Diane Melby, who will retire in July, said this campaign was one of the initial goals she set when she arrived at OLLU in 2015 and has been working toward the completion of the campaign ever since.

“The focus of the campaign is to bring Our Lady of the Lake University into the future by preserving the legacy of our founding sisters,” she said. “This is the legacy I want to leave, the successful conclusion of the largest campaign in the university’s history that has afforded us the ability to do these things that our community so very much needs us to do.”

A rendering shows the new Center for Children and Family building that will be built on the corner of 20th and West Commerce streets.
A rendering shows the new Center for Children and Family building that will be built at Southwest 20th and West Commerce streets. Credit: Courtesy / OLLU

One of those community needs the campaign will fund is the construction of the new, $7 million Center for Children and Family at Southwest 20th and West Commerce streets. The center will allow OLLU to expand the counseling and social services it provides at the Community Counseling Service, as well as the Harry Jersig Speech-Language-Hearing Center, the service and training facility of OLLU’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Program. The new center will offer low- to no-cost mental health counseling and free treatment for speech, language, and hearing disorders.

“As we all know, the pandemic has really exacerbated the mental health crisis throughout the nation, and this center will address that and help the West Side and San Antonio become healthy,” Melby said.

Bernadette Solórzano, professor of psychology and Community Counseling Service director, said the new counseling center will bring higher visibility and awareness of the center and its services, which are offered in both Spanish and English.

The counseling center has been in the same building on Gen. McMullen Drive since 1988, Solórzano said. The new center will be larger and allow the university to better offer counseling and training for students. Doctoral students specializing in marriage and family therapy and counseling psychology receive training at the center under the supervision of a licensed professional; OLLU also developed a certification program for Spanish-speaking therapists.

OLLU’s marriage and family therapy programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, and its doctoral program is accredited by the American Psychological Association, Solórzano said.

“It’s very exciting to me to be able to provide a better quality of care,” she said. “The environment, the setting is going to be nicer. It’s going to be more therapeutic in the long run, just healthier overall.”

Additionally, the campaign will help preserve the Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel, which was recently designated a Texas historic landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. OLLU will restore the chapel’s stained glass windows, upgrade sound technology, and refurbish the auditorium.

“It’s time to really give it the upgrades and the restoration that it needs to stay for another 100 years,” Melby said.

The other component of the campaign is building a robust scholarship program.

Because almost all undergraduate students receive scholarships or financial aid, Melby said there is no end goal for how much OLLU wants to raise for scholarships. Almost 60% of undergraduate students receive Pell Grants, and about 43% are first-generation students, according to the university. The current scholarship goal is $15 million, of which the university has raised about $12 million.

OLLU board Chairman Paul Olivier said although Melby will depart the university next summer, she created the foundation upon which OLLU will continue building its legacy.

“This university is a special place. It goes back 125 years to the sisters who literally got off a boat in Galveston from France and then came here with nothing and built this place,” he said. “We still feel their presence, and they’re still an inspiration to all of us. We’re standing on their shoulders.”

This article has been updated to clarify that the stained glass windows at Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel will be restored.

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.