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.”
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.”
(from previous articles)
Fitzgerald Fitness Center Dedication Set for September 16th
The long-awaited dedication of our tremendous new Fitzgerald Fitness Center is just around the corner and we hope all Gracelanders will come out to celebrate a new era in how our students stay fit and learn about how regular exercise makes for life-long, good health. Plan to join us Sunday, September 16th at 1 p.m. and enjoy the festivities.
When Graceland students left the Lamoni campus in mid-May, the construction site for the new Fitzgerald Fitness Center was nothing more than a smooth layer of dirt, surrounded by a chain-link fence. So, when students arrived on campus in late-August, the construction site for “the Fitz” had radically changed.
For starters, the chain-link fence around the site has been removed. The structure of the building is complete, and the limestone and brickwork around the building blends the Fitz in perfectly with the rest of the campus. Windows have been fitted into place and much of the exterior work is finished. Standing proudly, on the northwest end of campus, just south of Tess Morgan, the Fitz has now become a part of the Graceland landscape. And as the finishing touches are added to the building, Gracelanders are anticipating the building’s dedication ceremonies, again, to be held Sunday, September 16th. Mark that date!
Beginning at 1 p.m. on the site, the dedication will celebrate a new era of student health and wellness on “the Hill.” Ceremonies will include words from the Fitzgerald family, President John Sellars, Board of Trustees’ Chair Ken McClain, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Marian Killpack and many of Graceland’s student leaders. It promises to be a great afternoon.
We’re excited also that our passionate donors for the project, Bob and Janet (Braun) ’61 Fitzgerald, will be on hand to help commemorate a great moment in GU history. Graceland students, alumni and friends and members of Lamoni and surrounding communities are invited to join us as we celebrate this important new element of student life at Graceland.
Fitz Construction Blazes on in the Heat
As a summer heat wave continues to scorch the Midwest, the north section of Graceland’s Lamoni campus remains a hub for construction workers, large pieces of machinery and cement trucks. Though the heat has slowed many other outdoor activities, Facility Services Director Kurt Remmenga says that June and July’s warm, dry weather have been “conducive to construction” and that progress on the new Fitzgerald Fitness Center is coming along nicely.
Since its groundbreaking in mid-March, the Fitz Center’s transformation has been dramatic. Though struggling with rain delays in March, April, and May, the building’s frame began to come into place in early June. Since then, it has been nonstop progress. Masons arrived on campus July 9th and the building’s roof has come together. Graceland’s signature brick work is currently being installed, with limestone surrounding the building’s base. Remmenga calls this a middle stage in the construction process.
By early August, the brickwork will be completed and construction will advance to installing windows and electrical equipment. The building’s much-anticipated fitness equipment will arrive August 20th. A dedication ceremony is being planned for later in the fall semester, celebrating a new era for fitness on “the Hill.”
For continuous updates on Fitz Center progress, be sure to visit our Facebook Page.
Read More about the Fitzgerald Fitness Center and the Groundbreaking Ceremony
An enthusiastic crowd of Gracelanders gathered Monday, March 5, to celebrate groundbreaking for the new Fitzgerald Fitness Center. The new facility is destined to enhance the way our students stay fit and healthy while on “the Hill.” More importantly, perhaps, students will develop fitness and wellness habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
That is the goal of Bob and Jan (Braun) ’61 Fitzgerald’s remarkable gift. Bob said when he learned that a new fitness center was at the top of Graceland students’ wish list, he couldn’t have been happier. “We’ve wanted to do something for Graceland for a long time. Now, we’ve combined our two passions – Graceland and fitness.”
President John Sellars began the groundbreaking ceremony with a few lighthearted jokes. “Fitness is important to us all,” he said. “When ‘The Fitz’ opens in the fall our students can sweat all semester, not just during exams.”
Diane Bartholomew, Chair of GU’s Division of Health and Movement Science, spoke with real passion about how ‘The Fitz’ will “…shine like a beacon, calling out for students to become more fit and live healthier lives. It will be a gathering spot for healthy activity for our students, faculty and staff.” She added, “It will decrease illness, improve morale and increase work efficiency.”
Morgan Bradford, a senior who is President of the Council of House Presidents, noted in her benediction that the central campus location will be a real motivation for students to utilize ‘The Fitz.’ She said, “You never know about weather in Iowa. The ability to run inside in winter, and feel like you are outside [because of all the south-facing glass), will be divine.”
Many Thanks to the Fitzgerald Family
The Fitz is made possible by a $1.6 million gift from Janet and Bob Fitzgerald. Their son Randy ’91 helped guide the fitness component of the Graceland committee to study replacing the Memorial Student Center someday. Janet, Bob, Randy, daughter Robin ’89 Long, the entire Fitzgerald family’s commitment to fitness, led to the decision to build a modern fitness center sooner than later.
The Fitz is expected to be a five-month-long project. Facility Services hopes to have the facility ready to go for the fall 2012 semester.
A new era of convenient health and fitness accessibility for our students is on its way, and that is exactly what the Fitzgerald family had in mind. Bob, not an alumnus, but a Gracelander through and through, said his family’s lives improved dramatically when they became more active a few years ago. “We hope our contribution helps Graceland students achieve long-term fitness lifestyles,” he said.
Students, staff, and administration have worked together to choose equipment and amenities for the facility. It will have various types of aerobic equipment, strength equipment and functional, small piece equipment.
“We want a high quality facility that can be used by everyone. We want to provide the space, the equipment, and the environment that will be conducive to improving the health and wellness of everybody,” said Diane Bartholomew.
The building will have a high ceiling and be divided into different sections. One area will be a group exercise room that will have either a projector or television. The area holds potential for group activities, such as a Zumba class, as well as capabilities for a spin class.
Exercising with a Nature-Filled Backdrop
The aerobic area will include elliptical machines, bikes, climbers, and treadmills, most of which will face long, open windows overlooking the campus and nature. Some of these machines will be placed together, allowing for socialization, while others will have individual viewing screens, giving students the ability to watch a TV show while working out. Away from the windows, behind the aerobic equipment will be machines for people who wish to circuit train.
A partial wall will separate this area from the functional small equipment, items like medicine balls, kettle bells and free weights. The building will also include day lockers, restrooms and showers.
“The Fitz has the potential to improve the life and well-being of every student on the Lamoni campus. This type of fitness center is exactly what Graceland needs to ensure that our students are living healthy and balanced lives,” said President Sellars.
Students like Lisa Orndorff ’13 are eagerly anticipating completion of The Fitz.
“I don’t participate in Graceland Cross Country or Track, but I really enjoying running,” said Lisa. “One of my goals is to run a half-marathon before I graduate. I’m excited that next year I’ll be able to train at The Fitz, with new equipment that will really help me accomplish my goals.”
And while the campus may seem a bit untidy in coming months, between the Shaw Center project and The Fitz project, this period of construction promises to welcome a new era where Graceland can offer students on its Lamoni campus more than they’ve ever been able to offer before. Facility Services Director Kurt Remmenga reminds us that these construction projects are a campus-wide effort.
“Gracelanders have an amazing ability to find the silver-lining in the grey cloud of the construction,” said Kurt. “I don’t know anybody that can do this more graciously. We can tear up half of campus, and the community spirit graciously shifts to the other side and continues to grow.”
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