More than 100 friends, faculty, students and benefactors turned out last Thursday for the dedication of the new $3.3 million Penn State Beaver Wellness Center on campus in Center.
Rodney Erickson, president of Penn State University, traveled from University Park for the big event. The facility, and how it came to be built, "speaks well for the spirit of this campus," he said.
The 4,980-square-foot air-conditioned Wellness Center was built as an addition to the gym. The main floor and mezzanine have weight-lifting, strength-training and cardio equipment. A studio was built for group activities including yoga and aerobics.
Also, 1,500 square feet of existing gym space was renovated, with a redesigned lobby, renovated restrooms and staff offices.
"I just look at these weights, and I get sweaty," Mr. Erickson joked. "It smells like a new car in here," he said of the new equipment. "The campus looks magnificent -- all this green space."
Beautiful rolling hills with manicured lawns, flower and shrubs surrounded by wooded areas with tall trees can be seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows that bring natural light and panoramic views into the Wellness Center.
"This facility was a long time in the making but very well worth the wait," said Madlyn Hanes, vice president for commonwealth campuses.
"Over 240 students signed up to use the facility on the first day of class," she said.
Faculty and staff also use the equipment.
Discussions about the project began 10 years ago, said Gary Keefer, chancellor, Penn State Beaver.
Funding came from a variety of sources, including students at the Beaver campus, who contributed $400,000 over four years through the Student Facility Fee.
Students voted that each of them would contribute $100 to that fee to build the center, Mr. Keefer said. They could have voted to contribute nothing. "Most of them voted to spend $100 knowing they wouldn't be here to use the facility. It's my belief that this building will nurture the mind, body and spirit for years to come."
The Wellness Center with it's big windows "is a focal point for the campus. It will be highly visible to prospective students."
Students had input into the planning process, and Mr. Erickson thanked them, the faculty, staff and architects, Pittsburgh-based WTW Architects, who "collaborated on this wonderful project. It never would have happened without everyone pulling together."
The president noted "events in recent months have overshadowed many good things" going on at Penn State, "but we will overcome all that."
It was his only mention of the scandal that started last year when former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and ultimately convicted with molesting boys, at times in university facilities.
That was the only mention Mr. Erickson made of that scandal, though he spoke briefly with reporters following the dedication.
Donors to the project include businessman Carl Bartuch, dentists Nicholas J. Unis and Jennifer Unis Sullivan, the University Facilities Resources Committee, the office of the vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, the Office of Physical Plant and Penn State Beaver.
Local and county elected officials attended the dedication.
"Local officials in Beaver and the late Michael Baker (an engineer) made this campus a reality" years ago, Ms. Hanes said, and "our campuses provide tremendous value to their communities."
A reception followed the dedication. Students were invited, and many took advantage of the opportunity to eat canapes, fruit and ice cream from the Penn State Creamery -- butter pecan, death by chocolate, black raspberry and alumni swirl, which was vanilla with chocolate chips and blueberries.
"My professor let us out of class to come here," said Brad Benkart, a computer science major who transferred from West Virginia University.
Maura Francis of Penn Hills, a freshman psychology major, said she already has worked out in the new Wellness Center.
In a brief question and answer session with reporters, the Penn State president said that accepting NCAA sanctions, including $60 million in fines, was the most difficult decision of his 40-year academic career.
But he said, "I think it's time to move on."
Official enrollment figures won't be tallied for another month, but he said this appears to be "a relatively stable year" with a few hundred more students at the University Park campus and a few hundred fewer at the 20 commonwealth campuses throughout Pennsylvania.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-722-0087. First Published September 13, 2012 9:15 AM