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Ursuline College loses a gym and trees, but keeps the faith
Classes resume today, and students had left campus just hours before a tornado blew through

Ursuline College's gym took the brunt of the tornado that hit campus Saturday morning.
Courtesy of GRACE MURRAY
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Ursuline College plans to reopen for classes Tuesday, after a 110-mph tornado ripped through campus early Saturday morning. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on the damage done and the hopes for rebuilding at the Northeast Ohio women’s college.

LISTEN: Ursuline talks about Saturday morning and the future

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LISTEN: (Abbreviated) Ursuline tornado

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Cranes lower construction crews to assess the full extent of the damage to the Ursuline College gym. But you don’t have to have a crane to get a pretty good idea. A lot of it is visible just from the parking lot.

That’s because the winds that ripped through the Pepper Pike campus early Saturday morning tore off the gym walls, as well as a roof, leaving a cutaway that shows an American flag, a basketball backboard and hoop – and a lot of debris.

Sister Diana Stano is president of the school of some 1,500 students. Because the building is structurally unsound, she hasn’t been allowed inside the remnants of the gym yet.

“All the uniforms area in there, all the equipment is in there. All the coaches’ offices. The fitness room …  the training
room …  the weight room. So we’re not even sure of the extent of the damage yet.”

D-2 celebration, but what now?
Stano talks about it with a touch of irony, faith and humor. She notes that the storm arrived right on the heels of good news:  that Ursuline has now qualified for a new NCAA Division to compete in sports ranging from lacrosse to volleyball to basketball.

“Friday we got word that we will be an active school this year in D2, and we lost our gym. So I said, hmm, maybe God said now that you’re a D-2 school, you probably need a new gym.”

The damage, though, was not limited just to the gym. Flying debris sliced into other buildings and tore up trees throughout the campus. Stano notes that insurance likely won’t cover the trees, and might fall short when it comes to building a new gym to 2013 energy and other standards.

So the school will be trying to raise some extra money.

Blessed just the same
But she says Ursuline was fortunate in the important ways.

“We had just had camps on the campus, they left Friday evening. We had students living in the residence halls who had just left Friday evening. So we were very blessed that there were no injuries that occurred at the time.”

She says the damage has also made her feel all the more strongly for the victims of storms like Katrina, Sandy and the tornadoes in Oklahoma City.

“This is only one campus. Imagine the devastation of all those areas and what people must be going through and continue (to go through) today. Everyday, we meet and learn something new.”

Among those learning something new is Cindy McKnight. She’s Ursuline’s athletic director and says one of the things she’s learned is how generous other schools, as well as the community, can be.

 She’s also keeping the faith about the future of her Roman Catholic School.

“The Ursuline spirit is like no other. And we will rebuild and we will be better.”

Ursuline has cancelled the remaining summer camps. But summer classes are back in session, and the regular fall semester will get underway as scheduled Aug. 19.  

(Click image for larger view.)

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