On July 4, Benedictine College Works to Remember Independence Hall on Campus

There is a lot for Benedictine College to celebrate on July 4.

That was the date Lewis and Clark were the first visitors to what would be Atchison, Kansas. They fired a canon to celebrate on July 4, 1804.

But it is also the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall on July 4, 1776. And that day will soon be immortalized on campus, complete with a replica of the Liberty Bell.

Benedictine College is building a classically designed library to tell the story of America’s founding principles. The new library is designed to be reminiscent of Independence Hall, to inspire a new generations with America’s unique story of freedom.

Benedictine College believes that America’s future can be a triumph of the great experiment in self-government that started in 1776, but only if each generation of Americans embrace America’s founding principles.

As St. John Paul II put it: “Democracy needs virtue, if it is not to turn against everything that it is meant to defend and encourage. … The United States possesses a safeguard, a great bulwark, against this happening. I speak of your founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. These documents are grounded in and embody unchanging principles of the natural law … written by God in human hearts.”

For the public, the library includes a museum-quality replica of the Independence Hall Assembly Room where the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed.

For the college, the new library houses the college’s entire book collection, triple the student study space, new classrooms, academic programs, and a coffee shop.

This project places this historic building in the heart of America.

The Independence Hall themed library will be located in Atchison 40 minutes from Kansas City International Airport, and in driving distance to Omaha, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis and Dallas.

Atchison sits on the bluffs of the Missouri River. Half a century after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition landed there,  Abraham Lincoln visited Atchison a few blocks away — making Atchison the furthest West Lincoln ever traveled. The city is the birthplace of aviator Amelia Earhart and Jesse Stone, inventor of rock-’n’-roll.

The library project is a labor of love. Michael and Marlys Haverty gave a generous gift of $4 million for the library. Haverty is the former president and CEO of Kansas City Southern Railway, heralded for his achievements in the industry.

“The library and Assembly Room will be a destination for learners of history and bring a large number of visitors to experience Benedictine College and Atchison,” said Mike.

The Havertys are committed to passing on the principles of American freedom. In 2014, they brought significant historic documents to Benedictine’s campus, including a copy of the Magna Carta, a 1776 printing of the Declaration of Independence, and a first edition copy of Thomas Payne’s Common Sense.

Transforming Culture in America?

The library project was born when Benedictine College’s board of directors set a new challenge to the college in the year 2020: Transform Culture in America. For two years, the college convened faculty, staff, students, alumni, and leaders from virtually every walk of life. Nearly 300 participants generated hundreds of initiatives and voted to focus on the most powerful.

“Transforming Culture in America will require Americans whose lives of courage, civility, character, and commitment make self-government possible,” says the college’s plan. In support of America’s Founding Principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Benedictine College has:

  • Launched the Kevin Vance series Faith and the Founding.
  • Established the Center for Constitutional Liberty.
  • Led the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
  • Gathered 3 million pledged prayers in the Memorare Army for Religious Freedom.
  • Placed students in leadership positions in public life from the Kansas Capitol in Topeka to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • Awards the Byron G. Thompson Medal for Integrity in Business and Finance to Kansas City economic leaders.
  • Gathers school teachers from the Midwest each summer to provide guidance in teaching U.S. civics.

Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis calls the library one of the most significant buildings on campus, ever.

“The library will not only demonstrate a commitment to academic excellence, but it will also be a beacon of hope in the region and across the country,” he said. “This building will make a statement that in the landscape of higher education, Benedictine College is different. We love our country and believe the last best hope on earth should be celebrated, and that the founding principles of America — Constitutionalism, Self-Government, Individual Liberty and Civic Virtue — need to be passed to future generations.”

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Image: GPA Photo Archive

Editorial Staff

Benedictine College’s mission can Transform Culture in America by modeling community in an age of incivility, spreading faith in an age of hopelessness, and committing to scholarship in a “post-truth” era. We create video and other media content to promote positive messages of faith, hope, and love while Ex Corde Media Fellows program provides students with the tools, experiences, and contacts they need to enter the 21st century media world as effective communicators. Learn about the Ex Corde Media Fellows program.