HAMMOND | The prospect of restoring Gary’s once majestic downtown City Methodist Church after nearly four decades of neglect may seem highly unlikely.
But if it were to happen, a Purdue University Calumet construction sciences student has done the initial heavy lifting, so to speak, of preparation.
Merrillville resident and New Lenox, Ill. native Brianne Slick is on schedule to graduate Sunday from Purdue Calumet’s construction management and engineering technology program. One of her final assignments was to complete an extensive design project, required of all seniors, that enabled her to apply lessons she has learned as a prospective construction project manager.
Her senior project, which she initiated last fall, provided restoration plans for the sanctuary within the multi-faceted, 1925 circa City Methodist Church, once considered among the most magnificent in Indiana.
Changing times in northwest Indiana, however, led to the church’s demise, closing and ultimate abandonment in 1975.
When a Gary faith-based community advocate sought to find out what it would take to restore the grand old worship facility, Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon became aware. He then contacted university Professor and Head of the Department of Construction Sciences and Organizational Leadership Anthony Gregory.
“I put it out there as a possible senior project for our students, and Brianne stepped forward,” Gregory said. “She researched the church’s history and did a proposal last fall focusing on the sanctuary portion only. Then she did an analysis to determine whether or not the sanctuary could be made usable and if so, what the rehabbing would cost.”
For the ambitious, 25-year-old Dean’s List student, the project got off to a challenging start.
“I couldn’t find any architecture plans for the church, so I had to do my own measurements,” she said. “Professor Gregory helped with the perimeter measures, and I did the interior myself.”
And she did them during the brutal winter months of January and February. Purdue Calumet Professors Dennis Korchek and Jose Pena also provided assistance.
She then went about employing lessons of her Purdue Calumet education.
“I had to decide what needed demolishing and what could be replaced,” she said. “Then I did a quantity take-off to determine material needs. I also used the RSMeans software program, which provides material and labor costs based on geographic location.”
Though admitting the project at times was frustrating and overwhelming, “I fell in love with the (the building) right away,” she said. “The sheer beauty of the architecture and that it brought so many people together appealed to me.”
Along with other Purdue Calumet construction management and engineering technology seniors, she presented her project last week. A few weeks following graduation, she will begin her professional career in construction as an estimator with an electrical contractor in Denver, Colo.
Like so many students, Slick had other ideas of what she thought she wanted to study after high school. Briefly, she tried civil engineering. Then for two and one-half years, she explored veterinary science while working as a vet assistant. Though she adopted three dogs and two cats, her career path remained uncertain.
Meantime, while continuing to assist her father with home remodeling, she took the advice of family members and friends who encouraged her to resume her college education.
“At the time, I didn’t realize construction management was a degree,” she said. “Purdue Calumet appealed to me because it offered an accredited degree program nearby.”
Three years of study and two paid internships later, she acknowledges that the Purdue Calumet program “covers the fundamentals of construction as to what you need to know in order to manage projects.”
She adds that she also has benefited from helpful professors and flexible course scheduling.
“Brianne is one of those students with a critical mind who makes a professor better,” Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Technology Jose Pena said. “I have no doubt she will be a success in any area and endeavor she initiates. I wish we had more students with her discipline, drive and, above all, capacity for analyzing, asking questions and looking beyond the surface of things.”
Reflecting on her Purdue Calumet years, she said, “I can honestly say this has been one of the best decisions of my life. Being a woman in construction is not only a challenge, but it is also a reward knowing that I can do anything I put my heart into…”