Special Feature: 2013 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

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Gifts Supporting Athletics Surpass $55 Million

Big boost for new transformational, year-round athletics/recreation complex

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December 30, 2012 | by Alan K. Cubbage

The University will name the fieldhouse in its new multi-use athletics and recreational complex the Ryan Fieldhouse. Drawing is conceptual only.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- On New Year’s Eve at the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl Pep Rally, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro announced an unprecedented series of gifts — more than $55 million — in support of a campaign for athletics and recreation.

In honor of the lead gift from Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan, the University will name the fieldhouse in the new multi-use athletics and recreational complex the Ryan Fieldhouse. The new facility will be located next to the shore of Lake Michigan at the north end of Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

“Our teams’ and coaches’ passion and commitment to excellence is apparent to all,” Patrick Ryan said. “Shirley and I are excited to enable such excellence with state-of-the-art facilities that will play a crucial role in both recruiting and training Northwestern’s student-athletes and bring together the campus community for recreational activities.”

Additionally, the field located inside the Fieldhouse will be named Wilson Field in honor of a significant gift from Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson.

Plans for the new and renovated sports facilities were revealed only three months ago. Due to the rapid response and exceptional generosity of donors, a design competition for the facilities is already underway and will conclude in the summer of 2013. The winning design will be selected from the submissions by a group of architectural firms with substantial accomplishments in designing collegiate sports and recreational facilities.

“This bold investment in a multi-purpose complex for athletics and recreation on the lakefront will help foster the kind of vibrant, tight-knit community outlined in the University’s strategic plan,” President Schapiro said.

“The gifts recognize that athletics play a pivotal role in the life of the University, and the benefits of these facilities will extend to the entire Northwestern community,” he said.

The series of gifts includes a leadership gift from Patrick G. Ryan and Shirley W. Ryan. The indoor multi-purpose fieldhouse that will be central to the athletics complex will be named after Pat Ryan, a 1959 Northwestern graduate, and Shirley Ryan, a 1961 Northwestern graduate.

The Ryans have been extraordinary donors to Northwestern for many years, providing leadership and support for academic programs, scholarships, the construction of Northwestern’s Nanotechnology Center, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and renovation of Northwestern’s football and basketball stadiums. A recent major gift from the Ryans created scholarships for low-income students to attend Northwestern without taking out any student loans, which has enabled Northwestern to attract high-achieving, low-income students with exceptional leadership potential. That gift also supported graduate fellowships and facilities on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, as well as providing athletic scholarships for undergraduate students.

Pat Ryan is distinguished as one of Chicago’s most successful entrepreneurs and prominent civic leaders. He founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage. At the time of his retirement, Aon had $8 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries. He also founded Ryan Specialty Group where he currently serves as CEO.

A member and immediate past chairman of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees, Pat Ryan is a member of the International Insurance Hall of Fame. In 2008, Mr. Ryan was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary society, reflecting his many contributions to higher education. Mr. Ryan led Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Shirley Welsh Ryan is Chairman of Pathways.org and serves on the Executive Committee or on the Board of Directors of: the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and the Alain Locke Charter Academy. Mrs. Ryan has been appointed by two U.S. presidents to the President’s National Council on Disability and has served as chairman of the Chicago Community Trust. She founded and directs Northwestern University’s invitational graduate level Learning for Life series and has been a charter member of Northwestern's Women's Board since 1978.

An additional significant lead gift was received from Stephen R. and Susan K. Wilson. Wilson Field, which will be located inside Ryan Fieldhouse, will be named after the Wilsons. Steve Wilson received an undergraduate degree from Northwestern in 1970 and a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 1974. Sue Wilson is a 1970 graduate of Northwestern.

The chairman and CEO of CF Industries Holdings, Inc., Steve Wilson has led the transformation of the company from an agricultural cooperative into a global leader in fertilizer manufacturing and distribution. CF Industries, based in Deerfield, Ill., is the second-largest nitrogen fertilizer producer in the world and the third-largest phosphate fertilizer producer among public companies. Much of his career success, he says, stems from his education at Kellogg, where he obtained a grounding in finance within a team-oriented environment. Sue Wilson had an eight-year public relations career in Chicago from which she retired to focus on raising their two children. She served as a volunteer at the Evanston Public Library North Branch for many years.

“It is an honor to support this terrific investment in our alma mater,” Steve Wilson said. “Our student-athletes deserve athletics facilities that mirror their commitment to excellence, and, best of all, the new athletics complex will benefit all students. We believe it is important to integrate student-athletes fully into the student body on campus. This complex exemplifies the University’s commitment to excellence in the classroom as well as on the field.”

Additional major gifts were made by:

  • Edward “Chap” Hutcheson, Jr.  and Ethel E. Hutcheson. A 1968 Northwestern graduate, Chap Hutcheson is a managing director of Platte River Equity, a private equity investment firm based in Denver.  
  • Robert A. “Bob” Unger and Elizabeth Unger. Mr. Unger, a 1969 Northwestern graduate, is founder, chief investment officer and CEO of Platte River Capital, LLC.

“We are grateful that these leaders have given so generously to their alma mater,” said President Schapiro. 

Approved by the Northwestern Board of Trustees in September, plans for the athletics complex culminated from a multi-year planning process led by Northwestern Vice President for Athletics and Recreation Jim Phillips. The plans serve as the basis for a fundraising campaign which, in addition to these facilities, includes support for financial aid and varsity, intramural and recreational athletics programs.

With spectacular views of Lake Michigan, the complex will include a large, indoor multi-purpose facility that will seat hundreds of spectators and bring together students from across campus for non-sporting events, as well as provide space for athletics practice. The complex also will provide other new, enhanced and renovated recreational and competition venues.

Guided by Northwestern’s long-term planning for development of the Evanston campus, the plan calls for making great use of limited space to improve athletics programs and to bring together students, faculty and staff for recreational activities, such as aerobics and yoga, club sports and intramurals.

The athletics complex will take full advantage of Northwestern’s lakeside setting and be integrated into the life of the University.

The new facilities will bring unprecedented opportunities to accelerate the momentum of Wildcats athletics. Northwestern teams have been on a roll, including this year’s fifth consecutive bowl game appearance, national and Big Ten championships and rising attendance for games. At the same time, Northwestern is a national leader in graduation rates for student-athletes.

When construction is completed, all of Northwestern’s football program activities, other than the games themselves, will be consolidated on the main campus, rather than on the athletic campus located at Central Street and Ashland Avenue, approximately a mile west of the main campus.

“The consolidation of our student-athletes’ facilities onto the main campus will integrate them seamlessly into the life of the University,” Phillips said. “We look forward to further reducing the divide that occurs at other institutions where student-athletes are relatively isolated from the rest of campus.”

Phillips also stressed that the new facilities will bring unparalleled opportunities to bolster Northwestern’s record in athletics and enhance recruitment.

“Our responsibility is to provide our student-athletes with a world-class experience academically, socially and athletically, and these facilities will provide a state-of-the-art venue to work, train and compete,” he said. “This is a transformational project for our University community.”

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald expressed gratitude for the generosity of donors who, in record time, have accelerated the momentum in making the athletics complex a reality.

“To compete at the highest level requires a major investment -- to equip our current student-athletes for success and to attract top talent,” Fitzgerald said. “Our number one selling point, outside of the best education in BCS football and the opportunity to play in the Big Ten, has always been our campus. Now to have a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week, 365-day a year, world-class facility in a location that no one else can match raises the bar for expectations of this program.” 

Highlights of the planned athletics complex:

  • The large, indoor multi-purpose facility will be used for major events, such as the annual new student convocation and Dance Marathon; an indoor practice and competition venue for intercollegiate sports; and space for recreation, club sports and intramurals.
  • A new 1,200-space parking structure will contain fitness studios, weight rooms and other areas for exercise and recreation on the first floor.
  • Enhancements will be made to the soccer/lacrosse and field hockey practice and competition venues.
  • Renovation and additions to the existing Dellora A. and Lester J. Norris Aquatics Center and Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, will include new training venues for Northwestern's varsity sports, a new diving well, new locker rooms, sports medicine facilities, meeting rooms, a new weight room and offices.