Olivet is planning for the future.
Previously known as Fortin Villa, West Campus was dedicated to the University on Oct. 23 in honor of Donald and Faith Bell, who purchased the property for Olivet.
University President Dr. John Bowling said, “There will be a day where Fortin Villa will be filled with dormitories and classrooms and it will be West Campus.”
Vice President of Student Development Woody Webb said that, although it won’t be in Bowling and his tenure at Olivet, once a pedestrian bridge is built over Main Street, it will create easy access to West campus, enabling dormitories and academic buildings to be built on the other side of University Ave.
“One of the great attributes of a leader is to see into the future and envision what might be,” Webb said, and that is what’s being done here.
Donald and Faith Bell, 1953 graduates from Olivet, purchased the 23 acres of land a few years ago for Olivet. Appraised at over four million dollars, the Bells bought it for $1.1 million with the intent of entering into a joint partnership where Olivet would pay five percent for the property. But the Bells generously paid for West Campus in its entirety.
Before being purchased for Olivet, Fortin Villa was built as a facility for orphans and run through the Sisters of the Holy Heart of Mary, who established St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee. Alfred Fortin, a Canadian physician, donated the money for the establishment of this facility, which was opened from 1953 to 1975, according to Mike LeReau, retired Olivet professor and longtime Bourbonnais resident.
It was then that the U.S. government and the State of Illinois began funding more community-based care and the home was no longer needed. In its place was a daycare facility run by Provena Health Systems until 2005 when it was moved to a new building in Kankakee.
Webb said that Olivet owns all of the property across from Reed and Larson and is buying the property bordering Fortin Villa for continued expansion of Olivet as it becomes available.
Speakers at the dedication included Director of Recreational Services Matt Smith and professor in the Military Science Department Captain Alexander Hoffman.
“This fall, we had 525 students playing intermurals on [Fortin Villa] fields alone. What we have here is [unparalleled] in intermurals,” Smith said.
Hoffman said he has commissioned 120 students ranging from leaders in the front lines of combat to nurses. Fortin Villa created a place for ROTC students to learn and grow and work together. “Our graduates have been actively involved in all aspects of the military,” Hoffman said.
When prompted by Bowling to take the stage and say a few words at the dedication, Donald said, “Dr. John Bowling is one of my heroes today,” referencing their friendship through college at Olivet and Bowling’s climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. “I just love Olivet.”
To this, Bowling said, “I wanted you to catch [Donald’s] spirit.”
—Grace King, Executive Editor