Pool party dedicates new recreation and athletic center

June 05, 2010

Grinnell dedicated its new $90-million recreation and athletic center Saturday and named the Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center for the late alumnus, trustee, and publishing executive Charles Bear.

“This is more than a recreation and athletic center,” said Athletic and Recreation Director Greg Wallace, emphasizing the College’s commitment to full-body wellness in addition to athletic competition. “Most of all, it’s a place to have fun.”

The dedication ceremony also featured speeches by Trustee Susan Holden McCurry ’71, architects Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli and David Dymecki of Sasaki Associates, President Russell K. Osgood, tennis player Alec Moore ’11, and Vice-President of College and Alumni Relations Mickey Munley ’87. An audience of several hundred students, alumni, and friends of the College got the opportunity to symbolically “fill” the new pool with cups of water brought over from the older Obermiller pool in the Physical Education Complex, and President Osgood dove in to take the first lap.

Bequests of more than $10 million from the estates of Charles Bear and his partner, A. John Gambers, supported the construction of the natatorium and fieldhouse in the two-part state-of-the-art center begun in 2003. The bequests are among the largest combined gift distributions in the College’s history.

Bear worked throughout his 40-year publishing career for Time-Life International, holding several executive positions and retiring in 1984 as group vice-president, secretary, and director of Time Inc. A former member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, he also served as chair of the board of Major League Baseball Properties and consultant to the commissioner of baseball.

The Grinnell College Board of Trustees, which Bear served from 1970 until his death in 2007, approved use of the unrestricted bequests for the new recreation and athletic center, recognizing Bear’s career and sports interests.

“Charley Bear was a warm, modest man of great professional accomplishment, who served Grinnell faithfully as a trustee and tireless admission volunteer in the New York City area,” Grinnell President Russell K. Osgood said prior to the ceremony. “We are humbled by Charley’s and John’s generosity and pleased to be able to honor their legacy in a way that supports Grinnell’s values to educate and prepare students for lives of wellness and physical fitness. This outstanding facility is among the best in Division III recreation and athletics.”

The Bear Recreation and Athletic Center seamlessly connects first- and second-phase construction projects underground. The first phase of the center, completed in 2005, includes 1,250-seat Darby Gymnasium, home of the Pioneer men’s and women’s basketball teams and volleyball team; an auxiliary practice gymnasium; and a fitness center.

The soon-to-be completed second phase includes the 500-seat natatorium with 50-meter pool and movable bulkheads and the six-lane 200-meter fieldhouse with seating for 400. The entire Bear Center is expected to join Grinnell’s growing list of LEED certified buildings.

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