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Anderson Center Celebration

President Jay Barnes and his wife, Barb, pose for a photo with Barbara and Rollie Anderson in front of the Anderson Center. (Photo credit: Nathan Klok ’17)

When Rollie Anderson joined the Bethel University Board of Trustees in 2012, he admits he wondered what he could contribute. “I’m not a professor. I’m not a theologian or a pastor. I don’t know much about managing a university. In my wheelhouse, I know about transportation, a little banking, and a little real estate,” explains the CEO of Anderson Trucking in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

But Anderson’s skills were quickly put to use as the university began to discuss space needs for graduate programs. In 2012, Bethel was leasing space near campus, but needed a more permanent spot for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant program that was set to begin. One location was at 2 Pine Tree, Arden Hills. Anderson remembers there was a rumor that the building might be for sale, but when a group from Bethel explored it, they discovered the tax value on the building was $16 million and way out of reach. But something told Anderson not to give up. “I was ‘tapped on the shoulder’ and felt I should stay close to this process,” he says.

In May 2013, Bethel made the decision to lease space for the physician assistant program. A few months later, Anderson received a phone call. “There was an official offer to purchase the building from Country Financial for $6.3 million, but the deal must close by December 2013,” he says. The deal was exclusive to Bethel and the time frame was short.

For Anderson, the first call he had to make was to his wife, Barbara. “She was very supportive of the idea and encouraged us to proceed,” he says. From there, the list of tasks included securing a real estate attorney, a banker, coordinating lease transfers for the current tenants, arranging and passing environmental inspections, and getting a conditional use permit from the City of Arden Hills. Miraculously, everything came together on time and the closing took place on December 17, 2013.

Anderson recalled this story recently during a celebration in honor of Barbara and Rollie Anderson for their vision, leadership, and stewardship legacy at Bethel University. About 70 family members, friends, trustees, and Bethel employees attended the event on June 9 to celebrate the renaming of Bethel’s Pine Tree Center to Anderson Center in honor of the Anderson family.

“Rollie and Barbara, your generosity sets a guiding light for others who might want to make a gift to Bethel. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what you’ve done,” says Chair of the Board of Trustees Jim Green, who spoke during the event along with President Jay Barnes and Executive Vice President and Provost Deb Harless.

Barbara Anderson reflected on why Bethel is important to their family. “As a family, we have a strong generational connection to Bethel which started with Rollie’s parents and has continued on through children, nephews, and now to grandchildren,” says Barbara Anderson.

She explains that the more the family has observed and experienced Bethel—whether it is the students, employees, board members, or institution as a whole—they like what they see. “We see an institution that lives by its stated values,” she says. “Bethel’s values are based upon a commitment to be salt and light in the world, and to be recognized as Christ-followers.”

Today, the Anderson Center houses Bethel’s physician assistant and nurse-midwifery programs. Recently the admissions and administrative offices for the Graduate School and the College of Adult & Professional Studies moved into the building. They were joined by University Advancement personnel, including alumni and parent relations, church relations, the Bethel Foundation, and development. Many Graduate School and College of Adult & Professional Studies courses are also held in the new space. A steering committee continues to plan how the university should best use the space. Complete Bethel occupancy of the building is expected to take 12 to 15 years.

Rollie and Barbara Anderson chose Psalm 145:4 to be the verse to accompany their gift: “Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4, The Message)

“We are humbled that God has allowed us to make this gift to Bethel, but ultimately to the students, so that many more generations might continue to hear God’s story and receive the blessing of attending Bethel,” says Barbara Anderson.

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