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Thomas gift spurs Wellness Commons forward

December 16, 2016

Late last year, a gift of $3 million from Dorothy and Lee, C’67, Thomas gave a shot of energy to a project to build a new facility for health and wellness on University Avenue at the site of the current University Bookstore. As the Stronger Truer Sewanee campaign rolls out, this new health and wellness center will be a top priority.

‌The wellness and recreation facility will house the Sewanee Outing Program, the Lee and Dorothy Thomas Wellness Center, and a store for publications, sundries, and grab-and-go items. A fitness center will occupy the space where the main floor of the bookstore is now, with most bookstore functions being relocated, possibly to the Sewanee Village, as part of the village renewal program. The Thomas Wellness Center will anchor the lower floor, along with a new and much improved space for the Sewanee Outing Program. All the functions related to the well-being of students in general will find a home in this graciously designed building.

“This is an anchor project in the campaign,” notes Jay Fisher, vice president for University Advancement. “Its successful completion—and our successful effort to raise funds for that completion— will go a long way to enriching the Sewanee experience for our students, faculty, and staff. And it will place community health at the center of that enriched experience.” The plan to develop a facility for recreation and health services is particularly welcome news to students. As the student population has grown significantly over the past decade, the Fowler Center has been challenged to provide enough exercise space for students. In addition, the existing University Wellness Center is located off central campus, next to Southern Tennessee Regional Health System (formerly Emerald-Hodgson Hospital). The new facility solves both those problems, adding a fitness center next door to McClurg Dining Hall and bringing wellness to the campus core.

“The Wellness and Recreation Commons is a direct response to the most frequent expression of needs heard from both students and families,” says Vice-Chancellor‌John‌McCardell. “It is our latest step toward creating natural gathering spaces, on different parts of campus, that will more fully develop the Commons theme—not one outsized building claiming to be a center but rather a more distributed approach, incorporating various elements of a Commons program in spaces chosen and placed over time.

Donations to the project already add up to about $7.5 million toward the project cost of $15 million. The facility has a number of key naming opportunities to recognize the importance of new leadership gifts. In addition, the University is hoping to raise funds to support programming in the facility. Deborah and David Rogers, P’12, P’18, have already provided a leadership gift that is dedicated to programming, and the hope is that people will be inspired to think hard about how gifts to the campaign can foster the health and wellbeing of Sewanee students, either through gifts to the facility or to the activities that take place inside it.


If you are interested in a gift that goes beyond current-use dollars, named endowed internship funds begin at the $100,000 level. Named endowed scholarship funds begin at the $150,000 level for the College and $75,000 for the School of Theology.