OWU’s state-of-the-art fitness facility connects mind, body, and spirit. SQ’s varied spaces already are having an impact across the student population.
Take one look around at the new Simpson Querrey Fitness Center at Ohio Wesleyan, and it’s clear that a vibrant pulse has taken hold.
On the main floor of the 4,350-square-foot fitness center, students work out on an array of state-of-the-art cardio equipment, weight machines, and other high-end fitness equipment. Around the corner, in the Department of Theatre & Dance’s new 2,425-square foot Jannuzi Dance Studio, members of OWU’s contemporary dance company, Orchesis, rehearse for their annual show.
On the other side of the workout area, students in the Department of Health and Human Kinetics meet in a classroom equipped with mobile standing desks, or in other rooms designed for student practicums to demonstrate health- and fitness-related techniques. Down the hall in the renovated and now connected Edwards Gymnasium, six faculty and 35 Battling Bishop coaches’ offices, reception areas, two conference spaces, and a lounge create opportunities for spontaneous discussions among student-athletes and staff.
Clearly, Simpson Querrey brings together mind, body, and spirit—all under one roof.
These activities are just what Lou Simpson ’58 and his wife, Kimberly Querrey, envisioned with their generous $8 million lead gift to build the Simpson Querrey Fitness Center, a 12,774-square-foot complex where health and learning go hand in hand.
The fitness center, with traditional brick on the outside and sleek OWU black-and-red finishes and gray carpeting on the inside, was constructed on the site of the former Pfeiffer Natatorium, built in 1956.
At the October 1, 2015, dedication, the OWU community gathered to celebrate Simpson and Querrey’s long-held vision of the value that the “holistic” development of the person—mind, body, and spirit —brings to the academic environment.
“We are delighted that this can be an addition to the Ohio Wesleyan community,” Simpson said at the dedication.
Querrey, motivated by the fact that nearly 80 percent of OWU students participate in some kind of organized recreational activity, such as intramurals, club sports, and varsity athletics, added that “developing lifelong habits at an early age is really crucial to being successful in life.” Stress is a part of life, she said, and the SQ is a step toward helping students cope with that.
The Simpson Querrey dedication followed the 2014 renewal of Edwards Gymnasium, with its renovated basketball court and refurbished weight room, funded by a gift from Bob Morrill ’59 and his wife, Barbara.
OWU President Rock Jones noted the facility’s lasting significance at the dedication.
“As we educate future leaders, we understand that the quality, longevity, and fulfillment of their lives, both professional and personal, will be directly related to their ability to maintain good physical health.
“The college years are the ideal time to develop lifelong habits of physical discipline,” he added. “The Simpson Querrey Fitness Center provides an ideal setting for that development to take place.”
Colleen Garland, vice president for university advancement, notes the SQ signals the fulfillment of more than a decade of dreams and strategic planning by faculty, staff, and trustees. Today, she said at the dedication, “Lou and Kimberly made it a reality.”
Dance Finds Its Footing
Jeremy Griffin-Jackson ’16, a dance major and assistant to artistic director Rashana Perks Smith, is thrilled with the new dance studio, which features hardwood sprung flooring, mirror walls, ballet barres, risers for spectators, and high-end sound and video capabilities.
Prior to SQ’s construction, he and the other students practiced at a storefront on Sandusky Street, where the Department of Theatre & Dance leased space for classes and Orchesis rehearsals.
“It’s nice to be in a new space specifically designed for dance,” says Griffin-Jackson, who is also a student choreographer. He notes the studio’s shock-absorbent flooring helps safeguard the joints. “I can be jumping and leaping and not hurt myself,” he says. “It’s better for my body.”
Smith says the risers for an audience in the studio space also provide a place for the student choreographers to watch and provide useful feedback on technique to other dance members. “Students are enthralled,” she says. “They can’t imagine going back to the old studio. They’re all so honored and pleased to be a part of this milestone in OWU’s history.”
The close proximity of the studio to the fitness area has created other opportunities for students, Smith says. “I notice more students working out on the fitness machines before rehearsal, and that better prepares them for our time in the studio.” Additionally, she notes the new space will make it possible to develop collaborative programs with other departments.
Cohesive and Collaborative Opportunities
It’s clear that collaborative learning and teaching is a natural fit at SQ. Christopher Fink, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health and Human Kinetics (HHK), says the center’s overall design reinforces effective pedagogical practices—for faculty and students.
HHK classrooms, with touch-screen technology and movable desks and tables, are conducive for student teaching and other educational demonstrations. One classroom is equipped with sit-stand desks that can be raised and lowered to accommodate physical comfort and activity. Moreover, the fitness center serves as a classroom and laboratory for HHK students.
In addition, Fink says, the distance between classroom and laboratory space is simply a few steps down a shared hallway.
“We’re excited to be able to use the classroom space to further the expertise of our students,” he says, “and, in turn, to highlight their expertise in programs that support the wellness of the entire OWU student population.” This year the department will graduate nearly 40 majors in the areas of exercise science, sport and exercise management, health promotion, and general health and human kinetics.
Lilly Gresh ’16, an HHK major and an intern at the fitness center, says SQ is an exciting and integral part of her classwork. “When you’re in class, you know you’re right down the hall [from the fitness equipment] and can apply it.”
“The SQ will change how everyone learns,” she adds. “For a fitness degree, you need to be super involved and know what you’re going to be teaching other people. Everyone in HHK who comes to this facility has the same mindset.”
Athletics Director Roger Ingles sees the advantages of the interconnected offices and meeting spaces for Battling Bishop Athletics. “The new offices provide us the opportunity to house the majority of our staff in one location for the first time,” he says.
Coaches and staff can now share expertise and experiences with each other more easily, Ingles says, contributing to a cohesiveness among coaching staff. One of the most recent examples of a shared experience is a new one-on-one coach mentorship, in which first-year coaches are paired with a veteran coach (see Coaching up the Coach). Conversations happen in ways that could not before, he says, when staff and students were spread across campus.
For Gresh, daughter of Victoria (Joshua) Gresh ’88, and also an outfielder with the women’s softball team, another benefit of the shared spaces is that student-athletes can get to know members of other teams more easily.
And those conversations can have meaningful impact, Ingles adds.
“The renovation allows Ohio Wesleyan University to match any other Division III school in the nation for excellence in athletic and recreation facilities. Our entire student body, faculty, and staff now have state-of-the-art workout facilities to prepare them for athletic competitions and life.”
Healthy Bodies, Healthy Futures
Of course, the fitness area is a welcome experience for students seeking physical release from the stresses of class and coursework.
In addition to the workout area on the main floor, students can take yoga classes in one of the studios, work with a personal trainer, use the weight-bearing area and the cycling and elliptical machines on the second floor, and check out fitness- and sports-related events on the lobby’s large touch screen.
It’s clear that students see being physically active as a necessary part of academic and personal achievement, and that SQ has quickly become a valuable lifeline for campus and the greater OWU family.
SQ’s mind-body-spirit connection is special for HHK major Gresh because it makes her proud to spend her senior year being a part of that vision. But it’s also, she says, a gift that keeps on giving.
“When you’re here, you’re always thinking about fitness and learning and moving,” she says, gesturing to the students working out behind her. “You’re on!”
Lisa Lopez Snyder is managing editor of OWU Magazine.