Dean Walling (’30) – scientist, entrepreneur, benefactor – was “larger than life” to his grandson, David D. Halbert (’78).
“The older I get,” Halbert said Tuesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new science facility that will bear both men’s names, “the larger he gets.”
Now the legacy of both men and their families will be quite large indeed, as the 54,000-square-foot Halbert-Walling Research Center will soon rise from the rubble of the former Chambers Hall, alongside which Tuesday’s ceremony took place. The building is named for Halbert and his wife, Kathy (Gay ’78), whose $15 million cornerstone gift for the facility is the third-largest in ACU history, and for Dean and Thelma (Bernard ’33) Walling, who were instrumental in the transformation of campus 50 years ago during the Design for Development campaign.
Halbert paid tribute to his grandfather as “a man of integrity, a man of vision and courage” in his remarks.
“The courage my grandfather had inspired me to do what I have done – trying to live up to his legacy,” said Halbert, who has started and grown businesses in the science and medical professions, selling them for billions of dollars while funding the Caris Foundation, which he and Kathy co-founded to provide medical services for impoverished people across the globe.
The Halbert gift was one of three to catalyze the Vision in Action initiative, which will result in five new facilities for science and athletics on the ACU campus. It’s the biggest transformation of campus in five decades, when the Design for Development campaign overseen by Walling led to the construction of McGlothlin Campus Center, Moody Coliseum, Brown Library and others.
ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) hailed not only David but also Kathy and the rest of their family – children Kristen (’04) Barstad, Patrick (’07) and Michael (’11) and their spouses – for their generosity.
“This is truly not just a gift from David and Kathy,” he said. “This is a gift from the entire Halbert family.”
Schubert referenced Halbert’s reputation as intimidating and exacting as he recalled their first meeting after Schubert’s 2009 inauguration.
“It was about three hours long,” he said, “and about two hours and 58 minutes of that was him challenging me to have big, bold visions for this campus. … Every time I left a meeting with David Halbert, I felt challenged.”
Lydia Brown, senior biology major from Tucson, Ariz., described her experience in ACU’s science programs, calling her decision to attend “the best decision I’ve made in my life so far.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Halbert, thank you,” she said. “This investment is going to change more lives than you’ll be able to understand. Thank you for being willing to invest your money in something that makes a permanent difference.”