Fitzgerald Family on hand for Gala Dedication of the Fitzgerald Fitness Center
Jan and Bob Fitzgerald are joined by their extended family for the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday for Graceland University’s new Fitzgerald Fitness Center. Jan and Bob gifted GU $1.6 million to build the new fitness and wellness facility. Graceland President John Sellars is pictured at right, and at left is David Schall, member of the Community of Christ First Presidency. Jan and Bob are at center, with two of their grandchildren. More than 200 students, faculty and staff, and many members of the Lamoni community, came out for the dedication on a picture perfect day. Dean of Students Marian Killpack captured the moment when she noted that the new Fitz Center is surrounded by buildings that carry the names of Graceland legends, including the Higdon Administration Building, Tess Morgan Hall, the Roy Cheville Chapel, Marietta Walker Hall, Frederick Madison Smith Library and G.N. Briggs Hall. “The Fitz becomes a proud member of that tradition,” she said.
Dean of Students and VP for Student Life, Marian Killpack
On a day so beautiful that jogging or walking or especially bicycling would have been a natural, a family named Fitzgerald came to Graceland to celebrate with a large crowd the dedication of a new fitness center that bears their name: The Fitz.
Bob and Jan Fitzgerald and their extended family joined with a grateful Graceland community Sunday, September 16 to dedicate the Fitzgerald Fitness Center, a stunning new facility on Graceland’s Lamoni campus where students will learn to live active, healthy lives. This was Jan and Bob’s wish when they made their very generous gift to the university. They created nothing less than a new home for healthy living for Graceland students of today and tomorrow.
When President John Sellars introduced Bob and Jan, a 1961 GU graduate, to the dedication audience they received a standing ovation. There were more than 200 in attendance including many students who were anxious to start using the new facility.
An exuberant Dean of Students and VP for Student Life, Marian Killpack, drew applause when she talked about how the Fitzgerald’s dream of providing a fitness/wellness center at GU joined with our students’ desire to have such a facility on campus. “These two dreamed collided,” she said. Her moving speech was titled, “Dreams Still Come True.”
“Disney has nothing on us,” she said. She also noted how the panoramic views from the large, south-facing Fitz windows “…are unlike any other on campus. They speak to the soul as well as the body.”
Students Kayln Zupan, senior, and Aaron Martyn, also a senior, waxed poetic at the dedication about how The Fitz is going to change students’ lives. They noted that students will have lots of room to spread out inside and exercise in groups, “…for a really social exercise experience,” said Kayln. They also noted that the perfect central location on campus will make it easy for students to fit workout time into their schedules.
GU Board of Trustees member David Schaal pinch-hit for Board Chair Ken McClain who could not make it to campus for the dedication. Schaal presented a warm thank you to the Fitzgerald family, expressing especially the board’s appreciation. “You’ve done nothing less than change and improve the landscape at Graceland,” he said. “Our students’ total experience in college has been enhanced because of your generosity.”
Bob and Jan’s son Randy, a 1991 GU graduate, spoke eloquently for the family with remarks he called, “Why Graceland, Why Now.” Randy was part of the original planning committee for a new student center that eventually evolved into breaking off the fitness component and making The Fitz Center a reality.
Randy reminisced about how his mom would bring large groups of kids to the annual Community of Christ SPECTACULAR event held at GU each July. “Many of those kids, myself included, ended up coming back to Graceland as students because we liked it here so much.”
Jan and Bob Fitzgerald
He paid tribute to the professors and coaches who had made a real difference in his life, and his sister Robin’s life, a 1989 GU grad. He mentioned professors’ emeriti Bill Juhnke and Bill Russell and current professor Susan Maroldo, and coaches Stew McDole and Rod Schaal, now retired, among others, who had meant so much to his family.
“So Why Graceland,” he asked. “It is the people here, and the relationships that GU embodies for our family. They are relationships that will stay with us for a lifetime. That’s ‘Why’ Graceland. He singled out GU development officer Stu Sherman as being “…instrumental in working with the family over the years and helping make The Fitz possible.”
“And, so Why Now,” Randy intoned. “When we talked with Stu and President Sellars they explained how a beautiful fitness center would make Graceland more competitive with recruiting new students. As a family we got together and decided this was the gift we wanted to give to Graceland. We wanted to help Graceland thrive and stay competitive so that others can share in the great GU experience.”
Randy also talked about how his parents discovered bicycling and how they had made it a part of their everyday lifestyle. “It changed our family,” Randy said. “It especially changed my parents’ lives. They have biked all over the United States and Europe. They want GU students to discover a special place for fitness and wellness as part of their lives.”
He closed by noting that his parents do not like to be in the spotlight. Originally they did not even want their name on the new facility. “But, I think they really liked the idea that this facility would be named The Fitz.” And he added, “Their children could not be more proud of them.”