Thanks in large part to the generosity of two supportive donors, Randolph will begin a nearly $3 million renovation to its Randolph Athletics and Dance (RAD) Center beginning later this spring.
The significant enhancement and improvement of the building, which was originally built in 1962, was made possible by two leadership gifts. One of those gifts is from an emerita trustee, Mary Michels Scovanner ’77. The RAD will be renamed Michels Athletic Center (MAC) in honor of their $1 million gift. The other gift is from a donor who wished to remain anonymous.
“We are extremely grateful to the Scovanners and the anonymous donor who together are making these changes possible,” said Bradley W. Bateman, president. “Their support of the College allows us to move the College forward in a significant way—and improve the daily lives of our students.”
Mary Michels Scovanner was a student-athlete during her time at the College, playing field hockey and lacrosse. She and her husband have been major contributors to student life over the years. Among their most recent contributions was funding for Michels Plaza during the Student Center renovation.
“This is a renovation that will immediately improve the lives of our students by providing all of our students with a better-equipped, more inviting space,” Bateman said. “Not only will our varsity athletes benefit from a significantly improved building that better provides for their needs, but the entire community will be able to take advantage of the updated facilities. Randolph’s students are committed scholars who realize that a well-balanced, healthy life includes both the mind and the body. Providing a welcoming environment to promote that philosophy is important to us.”
The facility, which was previously known as the Physical Education and Recreation (PER) Building, had smaller updates in 1993 and 2000. The building is home to the Randolph WildCats and includes a basketball/volleyball court, five-lane pool, weight and fitness center, aerobics room, athletic training facilities, locker rooms, dance studio, team rooms, as well as athletic and administrative support offices. In 2015, the dance studio received new, modern flooring, courtesy of another donor, Sue-Gray Goller ’73. The flooring, a Cascade brand, is regarded as one of the top ballet and contemporary dance floor brands in the world and was chosen for its safety and durability.
Enhanced facilities are expected in the recruiting world, said Tony Berich, director of athletics. More students are involved with athletics, and even those who are not come from high schools where athletic competition, spirit, health, and wellness are high priorities. The renovated facility will bring Randolph more in line with other colleges in its conference, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
“What they are doing for us is a major upgrade,” Berich said. “This is going to have a huge impact on our coaches and their recruiting efforts, and our students.”
The 2019 renovations will include significant upgrades to the entrance of the building, including the addition of a new fitness center/weight room, which will feature large windows that overlook West Campus Drive, and a new aerobics room, also located on the main floor. Locker rooms, team rooms, and athletic training areas will also be enhanced, and additional offices and conference areas will be added. This will allow the College to house all of its athletic coaches in one building.
“The RAD renovations will have a huge impact on the students of Randolph College because many students, both athletes and non-athletes, take advantage of the facilities,” said Elijah Ford ’21, a men’s basketball player. “With the improvement to the facilities, it will give these students better equipment and spaces to perform.”
Today’s coaches have done an extraordinary job recruiting, despite the inadequacies of the facility, Berich said, citing the women’s and men’s basketball teams’ wins this year over Eastern Mennonite as an example. “If we give these coaches more ammunition to recruit, then they are going to
go out there and bring in even more talented student-athletes and retain them. These renovations are going to make a significant difference for us.”
Coaches are looking forward to the improvements. “The athletic department is excited for our students and for all of the renovations being planned for campus,” said Kevin Porterfield, assistant athletic director and women’s soccer coach. “The RAD renovation demonstrates that the College recognizes the needs of the students and is working hard to make those projects a reality.”
Rebecca Webb ’20, a member of the track and field team, said students are excited about the changes.
“Our teams are growing, and space is definitely needed,” she said. “I can’t wait to see the final outcome.”
Over the years, a constant at Randolph’s basketball games was the presence of members of the Giles family. Don and Frances Jones Giles ’65, both trustee emeriti, could often be found in the bleachers, cheering on the WildCats with their children and grandchildren.
“I feel strongly about the value of the education students receive at Randolph,” Don said during an interview in 2011. “And I also feel strongly about the value of athletics. It not only helps with school spirit, but it teaches many life lessons.”
Don passed away in January 2018 after a five-month battle with cancer.
“Don and Frances sat in those bleachers watching WildCat basketball frequently,” said Keith Evans, a former trustee. “They believed in Team Randolph, and opened their home to many of the Randolph trustees who became forever friends.”
Evans and Julie Huston Ellis ’71, trustee emerita, recently launched a special fundraising campaign to name the facility the Frances and Don Giles Gymnasium in honor of the couple’s lifetime of support for the College. The project will involve substantial upgrades to the space, including air conditioning, new flooring, enhanced lighting, energy-efficient windows, and more.
“I cannot think of a better way to honor Don and Frances,” said Bradley W. Bateman, president. “They have always been beloved members of our community, and we are proud to support an initiative that honors them in this way.”
Both were student-athletes: Frances at R-MWC and Don at VMI, and they became steadfast fans of WildCat athletics over the years. While they were often on campus attending events, athletic games, and other student activities, they also spent considerable time in their roles as members of the Board of Trustees, providing expertise and talent, as well as serving as leadership donors. Frances continues to be involved in the life of the College today.
“Don and Frances shared the belief that sports introduce a dimension to college life that broadens the learning experience, whether you are a player or a fan,” Ellis said.
Don, she added, believed wholeheartedly in the concept of team.
“He knew that in life, as in sports, you never truly win all by yourself,” she said. “Teams will come and go, but they will all leave a forever mark on the Randolph experience. Don and Frances Giles have also left an indelible mark on this college, and we believe it is fitting for their name to live on as the Giles Gymnasium.”
Learn how to give to the project at www.randolphcollege.edu/giles.