Honoring a GW Landmark

May 5, 2011

Steven Knapp celebrates refurbished Smith Center with donors and members of the university community

On the evening of May 3, supporters of the Charles E. Smith Center gathered on its newly refurbished basketball court to celebrate the center’s multimillion-dollar transformation and the benefactors who made it possible.

At the celebration, Dr. Knapp announced that to date more than $21.1 million was raised for the Charles E. Smith Center renovations. Fundraising for the athletic complex began in 2008 with a $10 million challenge from the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, the Charles E. Smith Family Foundation, and Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod. The gift, a one-to-one challenge match, was the catalyst for donors to contribute more than $11 million to the project. While the fundraising for the project is not yet complete, the university exceeded the challenge match, marking the “most ever raised for a single project at GW.”

Current and former GW trustees, including New York Yankees President Randy Levine, B.A.’77; Mark Hughes, B.A. ’69, M.S. ’77; David Bruce Smith, B.A. ’79, grandson of the center’s namesake Charles E. Smith; and Tad Lindner, B.A. ’51, joined GW President Steven Knapp and Senior Vice Provost and Vice President Robert Chernak to unveil donor plaques and recognize the past and future of GW athletics. Among those being honored and thanked were Robert and Arlene Kogod, Clarice Smith, widow of Robert H. Smith, and their son, David Bruce Smith.

“I’m very delighted to welcome you to this fabulous celebration of a truly marvelous project at the George Washington University,” said Dr. Knapp. “As you can see around you tonight, the transformation has yielded spectacular results.”

Renovations to the signature building in the heart of campus include a refurbished arena, renovated locker rooms and training and sports medicine facilities, an on-site academic center, and new box office, refreshment areas and Colonials Club. The transformation was designed by architectural firm Gensler and managed by Whiting-Turner Contracting Company setting a new architectural and aesthetic standard for future university buildings. Willard Hackerman, president and chief executive officer of Whiting-Turner,  donated $1 million toward the project.

The complex is named after the late Charles E. Smith, a nationally renowned real estate developer and GW honorary degree recipient and trustee who provided the initial gift to build the facility in 1975. The complex replaced the “Tin Tabernacle” gymnasium and has hosted dignitaries such as President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as GW’s Freshman Convocation, individual school Commencement celebrations and popular entertainers including Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and, most recently, Jimmy Fallon.

The Charles E. Smith Center houses GW’s Department of Athletics and Recreation, which supports 22 NCAA teams, club sports and recreational activities and related academic programs.

Before the celebration, Mr. Smith, Mr. Lindner and Lisa Harwood, daughter of Larry (Tex) Silverman, a former GW basketball player and namesake of the “Tex Silverman Court,” helped Dr. Knapp unveil three plaques recognizing the facility’s donors.

At the celebration, Mr. Smith spoke about his grandfather’s passion for health and fitness and said the complex represents his personal mission.

“This building represents some of the convictions [Charles E. Smith] internalized to achieve a healthy and meaningful longevity,” he said.

Mr. Levine, Mr. Hughes, Dr. Chernak and incoming GW Athletic Director Patrick Nero also offered remarks, expressing their gratitude to those who made the transformation possible and their excitement at the future of GW athletics.

“I’m convinced that this is the venue that has a culture and environment to win,” said Mr. Levine, chair of GW’s new Athletics Committee. “I’ve seen a lot of venues, and this one is first class.”

Mr. Nero thanked the Smith and Kogod families for their “gift of philanthropy, of leadership and of community.”

“As an athletic program, we pledge to use sweat and passion to bring this building alive with the spirit of victory,” he said.

Student Association President Jason Lifton; Associate Athletic Director for Facilities Jason Wilson, B.S. ’96; junior Sara Mostafa of the GW women’s basketball team; Margie Cunningham, women’s gymnastics coach; Foggy Bottom community representative Theo Shepard; and senior Jessica Stern, of the GW varsity cross-country team, spoke about how the new Charles E. Smith Center will benefit all members of the GW community.

The audience also enjoyed a video chronicling the transformation of the GW landmark.

At the conclusion of the celebration, Dr. Knapp, Mr. Levine and Mr. Hughes presented gifts to Mr. Smith and the Kogod family on behalf of the university.

Read more about the Charles E. Smith Center.