SIOUX CITY | Bev Wharton departed as the longest-tenured president in Briar Cliff University history 16 months ago and college officials are bringing her back Thursday to name a notable addition in her honor.
Briar Cliff officials will dedicate the Beverly A. Wharton Learning Center, the main academic hub for the university’s undergraduate programs. Wharton had a hand in that center, part of Heelan Hall, a long-time building on campus.
"I am overwhelmed. I would never have imagined this," Wharton said in a Wednesday interview.
She plans to attend with her husband Jim, daughter and son-in-law and three grandchildren, her family who all continue to live in the area.
It is the second honor for the Whartons this month. Last Thursday, they received the 2017 W. Edward Deming Business Leadership & Entrepreneurial Excellence Award at the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce dinner.
The learning center, which features the latest in technology, laboratories and expanded classrooms, was one of several additions under Wharton’s presidency. Shortly after the center was created, an atrium and new heating and air conditioning systems further improved Heelan Hall.
"It was such a wonderful addition to our campus for a variety of reasons....That is just such a great space," which students enjoy using, Wharton said.
Wharton, the ninth president in Briar Cliff history, retired after 15 years at the end of the 2015-16 year.
She said retirement has been an interesting life transition. "It has given me an opportunity to branch out."
Retirement has been filled with lots of grandchildren visits and a few months wintering in Florida, where Wharton helped poor and homeless people for an agency down there. She also has caught up on a lot of house projects that didn't get slated during her presidential tenure, including things like cleaning out the basement.
"I know it sounds mundane," Wharton said with a laugh.
College president wasn’t a position Wharton had in mind during her more than 20-year career as an executive for MidAmerican Energy Co. in Sioux City. Beginning in 1994, she served on Briar Cliff board of trustees. In 2001, Wharton filled in as interim president. Two years later, she was named the school's ninth president.
Hamid "Ham" Shirvani succeeded Wharton as president in 2016, and resigned this summer after 14 months on the job. Rachelle Karstens, the university’s chief of staff and legal counsel, is overseeing day-to-day operations while a new hire is being sought.
The dedication ceremony will be held at 5 p.m., just outside Heelan Hall.
Located on the north edge of Sioux City, Briar Cliff University has approximately 1,200 students.