Groundbreaking Heralds Construction of University Center Project

July 11, 2013

Historic Lead Gift Puts Facility on Fast-Track

Gonzaga News Service 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Igniting a ‘fire of innovation’ to ceremonially launch construction of its new University Center, Gonzaga University announced Thursday evening the transformational lead gift of $25 million from University Trustee John J. Hemmingson that is making the project possible. The benefactor’s support constitutes the largest single gift in Gonzaga’s 125-year history and advances initiatives in other areas of the University, including the Foley Center Library and athletic programs.

“Creating an ultramodern, contemporary center for our students is an essential part of providing the 21st century, integrative Jesuit and Catholic educational experience for which Gonzaga has become known,” said Thayne McCulloh, Gonzaga’s president. “As we look to the future, we understand what a transformational impact this facility will have for our campus. We are so grateful to John Hemmingson for his extraordinary generosity and vision in making this Center a reality for Gonzaga.”

John Hemmingson, along with other University and community leaders, participated in a brief fire-lighting ceremony marking the start of construction. “These flames represent innovation, creativity and a place where people will gather in a community of faith, knowledge-sharing and story-telling,” said President McCulloh. “That is what will happen throughout the new University Center, and at its outdoor hearth.”

“It is an honor to be able to help contribute to the continued success of Gonzaga under the wonderful vision and leadership of President McCulloh,” said Hemmingson. “Spokane and the entire Pacific Northwest benefit from the impact that Gonzaga has upon this region. As the University continues to rise in national prominence, it my hope that this magnificent Center will become a new gathering place for all Zags. This Center is about Gonzaga, its incredible mission, and the support of students who will go out and make a difference in our world.”

Hemmingson’s gift also funds the opportunity to reimagine how other campus facilities, including the Foley Center Library, are utilized, as some functions and operations are transferred to the new University Center. Hemmingson’s ongoing support of athletics as well as Gonzaga’s School of Law, where he endowed the John J. Hemmingson Chair for Civil Liberties, is assured, he said.

A Northwest entrepreneur, Hemmingson has worked and invested in education, insurance, real estate, technology, agriculture and other key industry sectors. A Montana native, he has lived in Post Falls, Idaho for more than 20 years. A committed community supporter, Hemmingson was a founding board member of The Rypien Foundation, and serves on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Spokane, Mobius, and Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners where he is vice-chair, among other civic service.

John Hemmingson has been an important voice on Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees, encouraging the institution to continue delivering superb educational experiences for students while embracing opportunities to grow and infuse technology-rich education into its traditional Jesuit heritage, according to Fritz Wolff, board chair.

“With this gift, John demonstrates his personal commitment to the institution,” said Wolff, “and his optimism and faith in the future. He sees the University Center as a vital step in advancing the campus for the next generation of Zags. He believes, as does the entire board, that this new Center will be a game-changer not only for students, but it will enable the community to interact with the campus in dynamic new ways as well.”

Gonzaga, Sodexo Celebrate Partnership

President McCulloh also announced Sodexo has made a significant contribution to the University Center that has helped to make the start of construction possible. The global food service firm’s 53-year relationship with Gonzaga is one of the institutions’ longest partnerships, said McCulloh. The Center will be the new home for campus dining, with a two-level residential dining facility, as well as commercial eateries, a marketplace, and conference dining.

“Sodexo innovates on our campus,” said McCulloh. “From the hydroponic gardens they developed with our engineering students, to leadership in sustainability, themed menus and fun events, they are an integral part of the campus experience here. We are grateful for the contribution and our multi-year agreement that ensures our partnership will continue into the future.” Sodexo is the world leader in providing quality of life services.

Spokane Mayor David Condon shared a message of gratitude and support for Gonzaga’s growth, noting the significant economic impact of the $60 million construction project and the University’s overall vitality in the community.

“The University Center will be a new face for Gonzaga and another important asset in a collection that makes Spokane a hub for knowledge and higher education. The project continues the construction momentum in the city, and gives the community a beautiful multiuse space for meetings and conventions and graduates that will benefit from Gonzaga’s leading-edge facilities.”

“We are grateful for the growing base of benefactors who have expressed interest in supporting the University and the Center,” said Joe Poss, vice president for University Relations, “because there is such excitement about what the new facility will hold.” The Center will be the new home for University Ministry, an expanding Center for Global Engagement, and will be headquarters for the University’s initiatives in civic engagement and service-learning, as well as multicultural education, student activities and government, and more.

“Our supporters see the exceptional opportunities to advance these programs and initiatives to ensure they are elevated within this new facility,” added Poss.

The new University Center is being built on the site of the existing COG — Gonzaga’s primary dining and bookstore facility built in 1953. Demolition of the COG began in June and construction of the Center is expected to start in earnest in August.

Student dining has been relocated to the Boone Avenue Retail Center (BARC), where it will serve students until the University Center is complete in 2015. The BARC features open dining for approximately 580, and is the new permanent location for the new 17,500-square-foot ZagShop, the University’s bookstore, and more than 600 parking spaces over three floors.

About Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University is a private Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic university providing education to more than 7,800. Situated along the Spokane River near downtown Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga is routinely recognized among the West’s best comprehensive regional universities. Gonzaga offers 75 fields of study, 26 master’s degrees, doctoral degrees in leadership studies and nursing, and a Juris Doctor through the School of Law.