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Lead Gift Launches Challenge to Renovate Rocky Miller Park

Goal is to raise additional funds by Oct. 1

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June 10, 2013 | by Alan K. Cubbage
Baseball stadium
The proposed renovations of Rocky Miller Park dovetail with plans for Northwestern's new multi-use athletics and recreational complex announced in December.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Richard and Roxelyn (Roxy) Pepper have pledged $5 million to Northwestern University, their alma mater, as a challenge to raise the remaining funds needed to renovate the University’s baseball stadium, President Morton Schapiro announced today.

If the University is able to raise the additional amount by Oct. 1 of this year, the Peppers will provide the project’s final $5 million for the proposed renovations to Rocky Miller Park, which will include new home and visitor locker rooms and training facilities, an upgraded press box, a new state-of-the-art scoreboard and expanded seating.

“We are grateful to the Peppers for their generosity and for their leadership in challenging others to help fund athletics, including critical renovations of Rocky Miller Park,” Schapiro said. “The planned improvements will benefit both our student-athletes and our fans, but we need to meet our goal to make it all happen.”

The stadium is named for Roxy Pepper’s late father, Dr. J. Roscoe (Rocky) Miller, who was president of Northwestern from 1949 to 1970. Home to Wildcats baseball since 1943, Rocky Miller Park was last renovated in 1983.

“This challenge is a tremendous opportunity to help our student-athletes succeed at the highest level, and we need to build on the Peppers’ gift,” said Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation. “Providing our players, coaches and fans with a beautiful, modernized facility will send a strong message about Northwestern’s commitment to the baseball program.”

In recent years, more than half of Big Ten schools have either built or renovated baseball stadiums or have begun fundraising for or construction of stadiums.

A complete renovation of Rocky Miller Park, pending additional funding, would include:

  • Convenient, well-equipped home and visitor locker rooms and training facilities
  • An upgraded press box accommodating print, TV and radio media
  • Private suites, a party deck and a hospitality room, providing opportunities to entertain
  • Expanded seating, concessions and other fan amenities
  • A new state-of-the-art scoreboard

The proposed renovations of Rocky Miller Park dovetail well with plans for Northwestern’s new multi-use athletics and recreational complex announced in December. The lakefront facilities will include the Ryan Fieldhouse, named after Northwestern alumni and longtime supporters Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan.

Baseball first became an organized team sport at Northwestern in the 1870s, making the tradition of Wildcats baseball nearly as old as the game itself. In the last 25 years, 62 Northwestern players have been drafted or signed by a Major League Baseball team.

The program has produced exceptional athletes, including three-sport legend Otto Graham, Major League Baseball All-Star Mark Loretta, 2008 World Series champion J.A. Happ, 2012 World Series champion George Kontos and New York Yankees manager and four-time World Series champion Joe Girardi.

Athletics embodies a key pillar of the University’s strategic plan: connect our community. The plan says Northwestern will “express our community spirit through shared activities and events in the arts, athletics and academics as both participants and spectators.”

Richard Pepper, chairman of The Pepper Companies, of Chicago, received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Northwestern in 1953. Roxy Pepper received a degree in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern in 1953. The two met and married while undergraduate students at Northwestern.

Richard and Roxy Pepper have been longtime volunteers and benefactors of Northwestern. Both have served as leaders for several alumni organizations and on their class reunion committee. Roxy Pepper also was a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1989. In 2001, they jointly received Northwestern’s Alumni Medal, the highest honor awarded to alumni of the University.

In 2005, the Peppers made a generous gift to Northwestern’s School of Communication to endow the department of communication sciences and disorders.

Richard and Roxy Pepper also made a significant contribution in 1997 to endow the undergraduate laboratories in civil and environmental engineering and to assist in the renovation of the Technological Institute, the building that houses the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The civil engineering wing of the Technological Institute was named at that time in honor of the family.

In 1978, the Peppers established the Stanley F. Pepper Chair in Civil Engineering in honor of Richard’s father.

For more information about the challenge, contact Travis Goff, deputy director for athletics and recreation, development.