Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa -- Cornell College is proud to announce the next phase of the Greater > Than Campaign. Fundraising is underway for a $19 million expansion and renovation project of the Small Sport Center.

Jean Russell ’65, Scott Ririe ’79 and his wife Shelley, and Richard Small ’50 and his wife, honorary alumna Norma Thomas Small, have provided initial leadership gifts to kickstart this Athletic and Wellness Facilities Project. As of March of 2021, donors have contributed more than $15 million, and the college is continuing its fundraising efforts for the remaining amount. 

The Small Sport Center, named after the Small family following their investment in the earlier 1986 addition–which included the six-lane indoor track, four courts for basketball, tennis, and volleyball, and practice space for other activities–will now receive another 21,689-square-foot addition. Renovations will be made to the existing Sport Center and Field House.

“We are grateful to Jean, to Scott and Shelley, and to Richard and Norma for their deep commitment to Cornell College and their transformative gifts,” said President Jonathan Brand. “This project allows us to once again show the world that Cornell College is going places. These gifts not only provide the opportunity to expand our athletics programming but provide a much-needed space for the entire Cornell community to come together in one location to participate in health and wellness activities.”

Construction is slated to begin this spring and the 18-month project is projected to finish in the fall of 2022. Cornell has upgraded all of the outdoor athletic facilities in the past 10 years, but the headquarters are considerably dated. 

Life Trustee and former Rams wrestling conference champion Richard Small put it simply: “Our athletic facilities do not match up to the other schools in the Midwest Conference.”

The project will include:

  • A new wellness and fitness center with updated cardio and weight equipment (This replaces the current Thomas Commons facility)
  • New locker room facilities for all student-athletes, visiting teams, and the Cornell community
  • An expanded lobby with gathering spaces for students and visitors
  • New centralized office spaces and a conference room for coaches, staff, and administration
  • A group exercise room for workout classes and training
  • A new classroom for block courses, team meetings, and social functions
  • A 20-yard multi-purpose turf area for movement-based exercises

When completed, the renewed Richard and Norma Small Athletic and Wellness Center (with a new nickname of the SAW) will become a vital hub of campus life. It will also support Cornell’s work to recruit new students, enhance athletic programs, and secure competitive events.

“It will be an amazing addition to campus,” Russell said. “I can’t wait to see the new and renovated building filled with students in just a year and a half. This building will become a gathering place for current and future students as the college continues to grow.” 

More than one-third of students now compete on one or more of Cornell’s 19 NCAA Division III teams. During the 2019-20 academic year, Cornell students participated in intramural activities and well-being programs more than 2,000 times.

In addition to this project, the Greater > Than Campaign has made many campus projects possible. That includes a new science building, a new grass soccer competition field, the restoration of College Hall, and the renovation of Van Metre Field at Ash Park. 

About Cornell College:

Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has a student population of around 1,000 students. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, for 40 years. This style of learning allows students to fully immerse themselves in their chosen topic of study, including taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from 45 states and 16 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.


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