|A rendering shows the glass-walled addition to the JFC.|
CHESTERTOWN, MD, June 14, 2012—Construction begins this week to expand and update the Benjamin A. Johnson Fitness Center at Washington College. The $2 million project will include both a 3,200 square-foot gallery addition and reconstruction of the existing fitness space.
During construction, which is expected to last through December, the Fitness Center facilities will remain open as usual to students, faculty, staff, and members of the College’s 1782 Society. A temporary wall will separate the construction areas from the areas still in use.
The Johnson Fitness Center Renovation Committee, which is led by Board of Visitors and Governors chair Edward Nordberg ’82 and John Moag, Jr. ’77, is well on its way to raising the $2 million needed to fully complete the renovations. More than $1.4 million had been donated by June 1. Barbara Heck, senior associate vice president for College Advancement, says donors of $1,500 or more will be recognized by name in the new space. (To learn more about how to help or to make a pledge, call the Advancement office at 410-778-7805.)
At a ceremonial groundbreaking held outside the Fitness Center in April, Nordberg unveiled a plaque dedicated to William B. Johnson, the alumnus who made both the original building and the current renovations possible. Bill Johnson and his family, which includes current Board member Ben Johnson, made a lead gift of $500,000 for the renovation, continuing a tradition of involvement and support that dates back a century.
Bill Johnson’s father, Benjamin Alvin Johnson, graduated from Washington College in 1911 and became a well-respected Maryland jurist. Bill Johnson, himself, graduated maxima cum laude from Washington College in 1940, taking home six senior class awards. He earned a law degree and then launched a stellar career in business, starting off in the railroad industry and eventually becoming CEO of the multi-billion conglomerate Illinois Central Industries.
More than 20 years ago, Bill Johnson made the lead gift on the original fitness center building in honor of his father. Now his family’s half-million dollar gift is making the necessary upgrades possible.
Athletics Director Bryan Matthews ’75 says the College community has simply outgrown the current facility. It was built for a student body of 900 undergraduates. In recent years, both student population and participation in fitness training have grown exponentially. The student body now numbers closer to 1,400, athletes are increasing their weight and cardiovascular training in order to improve their skills and overall stamina, and more non-athletes are turning to fitness as a means of stress and weight management. Faculty and staff, too, frequent the JFC in order to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Under the new design, the space devoted to cardiovascular and weight training will more than double. A glass-enclosed gallery with a curving 18-foot wall of windows will house cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, stair steppers and ellipticals. The addition will also have a designated space for circuit training and floor work. The existing fitness space will be used only for strength training, with universal weight machines and free weights.
Matthews says the improved JFC will help the College stay competitive in admissions and athlete recruitment. “Many schools in the Centennial Conference have recently invested a lot of money in their athletic facilities,” he explains, “and prospective students and their families expect excellent athletic facilities to go hand-in-hand with excellent academic programming.”