With a turn of 10 shovels to break up the dirt, Georgia Military College officially began construction on a $17 million Health and Wellness Center Saturday, during a groundbreaking ceremony at Alumni Weekend.
“The center has long been a dream for the students and leadership at this school, and we are thrilled to be here to break ground together and celebrate the latest in a long line of facility additions on campus,” said GMC President Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan in a speech just before handing out shovels. “It is the capstone on the growth we’ve accomplished these past few years: the new prep school, the added technology and classrooms, the performing arts center… all made possible through the generosity of the supporters of GMC.”
During the festivities, alumnus and campaign fund chair Powell Moore also announced the public launch of a campaign to raise the final $1 million needed for the building fund.
“While our school is steeped in tradition,” said Moore, “the leadership and alumni of this great institution have chosen not to rest on their accomplishments, but to press forward into this new century with the intention of fostering an even brighter, healthier future for tomorrow’s leaders.
“We enlist all of you here,” he continued, “and all of the alumni and friends of GMC to make a donation, large or small, to complete the funding needed to help us lay the foundation for healthy students today and the healthy future of GMC students to come.”
Moore also explained the funding sources for the facility.
“The state has recognized the need for the facility and has allocated $7 million toward the project. We are fortunate the school is financially sound and has been able to provide additional funding in the same amount,” he said. “Alumni and friends have already stepped up and given $2 million of the $3 million needed for completing the project. The GMC Foundation is asking for your support to provide the remaining $1 million, which is all that stands between the vision and the reality.”
Before the project went public, several devoted alumni stepped up to pledge financial support for the center. Sarah Moore Stern was one of them. In honor of her parents, Stern and her husband, Bob, have generously become sponsors of the Jere and Kay Moore Fitness Center, 4,000 square-feet of strength and endurance-training equipment within the facility.
“Nothing would’ve pleased Dad more than giving young people the opportunity to develop healthy lifestyles,” Stern said. “The fact that his alma mater was building a health and wellness center made it perfect. And being able to sponsor the fitness center within the facility was just the right piece. I didn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call GMC as soon as I heard about it.”
Alumni and friends are now being given an opportunity to name other fitness areas within the center and even individual equipment in the cardio and weight training areas.
The event, held outside the Cordell Events Center on the site of the new project, was attended by about 120 people. The event preceded the Alumni Weekend Dinner Social and followed the Homecoming game in which GMC beat Atlanta Sports Academy, 24-13.
Participants in the groundbreaking included: Gen. Boylan; Powell Moore, campaign chairman; Dudley Rowe, Foundation chairman/campaign steering committee chairman; George Echols, M.D., honorary campaign chairman; Randy New, Board of Trustees chairman; John Thornton, Prep School principal; Bert Williams, Junior College athletic director and head football coach; Joe Greco, Lord Aeck & Sargent architecture; Bill Morrison, Skanska; Bobby Cromer, Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission; Rusty Kidd, Georgia State Representative, District 141; and Johnny Grant, Georgia State Senator, District 25.
“GMC is on track to add three levels and 56,250 square feet of brand new fitness space alongside what will be a full renovation of our existing fitness center,” Boylan said. “We were so excited to join visiting alumni to celebrate such an enormous undertaking. We are committed to the health and well-being of our students, faculty and visitors, and know the addition of the new center is well worth the funding and effort it will take to improve our current physical fitness facility.”
When it was constructed almost 50 years ago, the Cordell Center was considered a modern gym. But, as Boylan explained to the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking, the school has grown tremendously over the years, while the state of Georgia now ranks second in the nation in childhood obesity. “Simply put, our once contemporary center is now antiquated,” he said. “We need to step up our game to give our students the fitness support they so desperately need.”
Nearly 2,000 students in grades six through 12 and the junior college use the existing Cordell Events Center, though it was built in 1964 to serve fewer than 500 students. What was once considered a modern facility is now thoroughly outdated and overcrowded.
With such limited space, junior college students cannot be offered Physical Education classes. GMC is unable to offer any college sports requiring a gym. There is not even space for winter intramural sport. Locker rooms are under-equipped, without private showers and not available for both males and females at the same time, much less visiting teams.
“The center wasn’t designed for weight-lifting equipment so the apparatus we have has to be placed with almost surgical precision over support beams in the floor,” Boylan said.
By the end of 2013, GMC’s new Health and Wellness Center will house six classrooms for health and wellness instruction, an athletic healthcare and training lab, three separate spaces dedicated to weight and cardio training, an elevated track, staff offices and locker rooms to support all the prep school and junior college students and visiting teams.
Phase two of the project will include the addition of a 1,800 square-foot convocation center, as well as additional instruction spaces, physical training spaces and offices to support the instruction.
Beyond the facility itself, GMC is dedicated to the people and programs that will bring wellness to life. As such, they have planned to partner with Oconee Regional Medical Center in a program that will help reduce obesity and obesity-related conditions and improve health and wellness through local programs, technical assistance and training, leadership, surveillance, intervention and development evaluation. They also plan to advance JROTC’s strength and fitness program called Baseline Health Risk Assessments (HRA). HRA also includes nutrition education and training, health fairs and other awareness activities.
“At the heart of our vision for the center is the recognition of the vital importance of physical fitness to young people,” Boylan said. “We know that with regular exercise and activity, our students are happier and healthier and they are better able to handle stress. As a result they benefit from improved focus on their studies and are able to look forward to longer, healthier lives.”
For more information about the Health and Wellness Center, visit www.gmcfoundation.org or contact Sally Thrower, associate vice president for advancement, at email@example.com, or (478) 445- 0208.