In keeping with the vision of its major benefactors to create a facility for students of all walks of life as well as Heidelberg University and local communities, the Saurwein Health & Wellness Center was dedicated Thursday afternoon.
Cliff and Mary Saurwein, Heidelberg alumni who graduated in 1927 and 1930, provided a multimillion-dollar gift from their estate for construction of the center, which is attached to Seiberling Gymnasium. Their nephew, Harold "Herk" Wolfe, said his aunt and uncle would have been impressed with the facility.
"They would have been so proud of this," Wolfe said during the dedication. "Things turned out just as Mary had wanted."
It was her vision to create a facility open to all students, athletes and non-athletes alike. The official opening brings to fruition her dream, which she envisioned following Cliff's challenge as a student in the 1920s to find space to work out on campus that wasn't in direct conflict with athletic practice and games.
The Saurweins, who were married for 70 years before dying in 1999 and 2001, respectively, were generous donors to Heidelberg throughout their lives. They had no children.
"It turned out they didn't need any, because they loved this institution so much," Wolfe said.
The $4.3 million, 22,000-square-foot center is to promote healthy living.
It is the fifth new or renovated facility to open at Heidelberg in three years.
Saurwein provides cardiovascular and weight-training equipment; multi-purpose space for group fitness activities; lectures and seminars; a lounge; space for healthy refreshments; classrooms and faculty/staff offices; and a wellness technology station that allows individuals to track personal progress toward health goals.
Sophomore Meredith Higgins, who represented Heidelberg students at the dedication, said the center is "a fantastic new addition to campus."
"It is a reaffirmation of the holistic educational approach Heidelberg promotes," she said. "It's great to be able to fit physical fitness into a busy life at Heidelberg."
Higgins isn't alone. Since Saurwein opened in August, at least 1,000 students per week have utilized its equipment and programs.
From an academic perspective, the center becomes a working laboratory for students studying athletic training, health sciences and health and physical education, said Trevor Bates, associate dean of health sciences and director of the Athletic Training Education Program.
"Our students are getting valuable hands-on experiences in the classroom," Bates said, extending his thanks to the more than 250 donors.
Mayor Aaron Montz, a 2008 Heidelberg alumnus, presented a proclamation from the city, and President Robert H. Huntington read one from Gov. John Kasich.
Huntington expressed his appreciation for the leadership of the board of trustees and Heidelberg's partners in the design and construction process, The Design Collaborative and Thomas & Marker, the general contractor. He also thanked Heidelberg administrators who worked to see the project to completion. But primarily, he expressed deep gratitude for the Saurweins.
"They devoted their lives to being generous, kind-hearted people who made other people's lives better," Huntington said.
Heidelberg is collaborating with the YMCA to operate the facility, which will complement Y programming and strengthen a four-decade partnership between the two organizations.
Steve Crone, president and CEO of Tiffin Community YMCA, said the partnership cements a longstanding relationship between the institutions.
"We're excited to offer programs to help students and the community promote healthy lifestyles," said Crone. "We want to honor the commitment the donors have made - the commitment to healthy lifestyles that will continue for many years to come because of our partnership."