Rising on campus over 15 months, and now open, the Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education is the most visible symbol of the success of "Extending Our Reach—The Campaign for Bluffton."
The 60,000-square-foot building offers enhanced facilities for all students and sets a new standard for environmental sustainability in campus facilities. However, the Sommer Center is not the only outcome of the seven-year campaign, which exceeded its $30 million goal with more than $32.7 million in cash gifts and pledges.
In addition to the $14.7 million raised to fully fund the Sommer Center, the campaign provided $8 million for the Bluffton Fund, which supports annual operations and student financial aid; $8.2 million to strengthen the university's endowment, including support for faculty research and student scholarships; and $1.9 million for various special projects to fund campus improvements and programs.
"We really raised our sights," says Dr. Hans Houshower, vice president for advancement. "We set a very ambitious goal, and a large group of loyal alumni and friends responded with the financial commitments needed to make it happen."
With the help of those contributors—46 of whom committed $100,000 or more—"we've grown our giving through the Bluffton Fund to more than $1.1 million annually," Houshower notes. "We've also established a number of endowed faculty scholarship grants that help our faculty conduct scholarly research and publish—an important part of a university program."
Many donors made gifts to establish or strengthen endowed scholarships for students, including a $500,000 scholarship fund made possible by the bequest of James and Frieda Basinger. Others helped provide support for student development activities, including the Karl Schultz Discovery Funds that provide grants for vocational exploration and Women's Council support for professional development of female students.
Gifts from classes marking their 50-year anniversaries helped purchase a new Steinway grand piano for the music department and renovate Founders Hall general science labs. Among other special projects funded by campaign contributions was a video project documenting artwork at The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center.
In the Sommer Center, meanwhile, the university is gaining much needed space for the academic department of health, fitness and sport science; a fitness and weight training center for all students; Copeland Court, a new home for intercollegiate basketball and volleyball; a sports medicine center; athletics offices; and practice, intramural and multipurpose facilities.
Copeland Court seats more than 1,500 and also includes two practice courts and a walking/jogging track. An adjacent 5,000-square-foot fitness and weight training center includes separate areas for aerobic fitness and free weights, and the sports medicine center features an exam room and offices for physicians and trainers; rehabilitation space, including a hydrotherapy room; and dedicated areas for treatment and taping. The Reichenbach Room, a multipurpose space with an elevated view of the court, will be used for classes, meetings and special events.
In addition to providing new program resources, the Sommer Center is the first building on campus to be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. "Bluffton's largest building will be a truly 'green' building, featuring the latest innovations in energy-saving technology," Houshower says.
Key ingredients include commitments to an environmentally sustainable site, energy efficiency—including natural light in at least 90 percent of the center's regularly occupied spaces—and to recycling, including 75 percent or more of construction waste. The building also includes systems, inside and outside, to reduce water usage and runoff and to manage impact on the adjacent natural areas along Riley Creek.
Adds Houshower: "Through the transformative impact of 'Extending Our Reach,' including the Sommer Center, we are enhancing the quality of Bluffton's total educational experience for all students for today, tomorrow and future generations."