Penn State University: President Bendapudi oversees dedication of Penn State Berks wellness center

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Leaders from around the commonwealth gathered at Penn State Berks on Friday, Aug. 26, to celebrate the dedication of the newly renovated and expanded Beaver Athletics and Wellness Center. President Neeli Bendapudi was on hand to mark the culmination of the $30 million project, which revamped the original structure into a 76,000-square-foot modern facility designed to support academic programs and recreational activities.

To recognize the milestone, more than 200 faculty, staff, alumni and friends assembled alongside members of the broader Reading-area community on Perkins Plaza, where an hourlong program highlighted the transformational impact of the renovated facility.

“The Beaver Athletics and Wellness Center will provide state-of-the-art infrastructure to further academic and athletic excellence, and in doing so, it represents a giant step forward in our efforts to realize a more integrated and better-resourced Penn State experience,” said Bendapudi. “The building will facilitate collaborative learning, house wellness programming, and strengthen our ability to recruit and retain students — all of which was made possible because of the extraordinary vision and leadership of our administrators, alumni and friends of Penn State Berks.”

Highlights of the upgraded facility include a new trainers’ room complete with a treatment and rehab space, a hydrotherapy room, and additional locker rooms and coaches’ offices. The student body will now have access to an enlarged and better-equipped fitness center and weight room, and an auxiliary gymnasium will increase accessibility for intramural and club teams and other students. A dance and yoga studio will enhance the range of wellness programs supported by the facility.

Additional laboratory space has been set aside for the kinesiology program, including new exercise physiology and biomechanics labs, classroom space, and administrative office space for faculty and staff.

The project also included the completion of the second floor of the adjacent Perkins Student Center, including a new convenience store, Creekside Market, and an enclosed bridge connecting the Beaver and Perkins buildings. These two facilities, now physically joined, will become the hub for student activity on campus.

The original Beaver Community Center, as it was first known, opened in 1980 and for 40 years served as the indoor center for athletics, fitness and recreation at Penn State Berks, as well as a home for special events and commencement ceremonies. It was named after Howard O. “Mike” Beaver Jr., a 1948 graduate of the Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and a Reading-area business leader who went on to serve on the Penn State Board of Trustees from 1978 to 1990.

“Mike truly was a pillar of the Reading community,” said Penn State Berks Chancellor George Grant Jr. “His entrepreneurial spirit took him from mill worker to chief executive officer of Carpenter Technology, and along the way his leadership, influence and generosity played a major role in the formation and development of Penn State Berks. This facility is a fitting tribute to all he made possible for others on this campus and throughout the region.

In addition to $23 million from Penn State’s capital plan funds, the renovation was made possible by $5 million committed by the Penn State Berks student body from its Student Initiated Fee, more than $2 million in support from Housing and Food Services, and gifts from many supporters.

The center is one major accomplishment within a constellation of projects that were propelled forward by the University’s recently completed fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” In the campaign’s six-year run from 2016 to 2022, Penn State Berks raised more than $11 million from alumni and friends, generating the core resources that enabled the creation of the Berks LaunchBox and the Cohen-Hammel Fellows Program, among other opportunities for students and community members.

David M. Kleppinger, vice chair of the Penn State Board of Trustees, reflected on the importance of philanthropic investment.

“The University’s campuses across the commonwealth play a vital role in fulfilling Penn State’s mission as a modern land-grant university,” Kleppinger said. “By operating as one University, geographically distributed, we ensure that an affordable, world-class education is available to students who choose to live at home, work and go to school in their own local communities. None of this would be possible without the generosity of our alumni and friends, who continue to build the infrastructure that has made Penn State a beacon of educational opportunity.”

With the record-breaking success of “A Greater Penn State,” which raised $2.2 billion from 2016 to 2022, philanthropy is helping to sustain the University’s tradition of education, research and service to communities across the Commonwealth and around the globe. Scholarships enable our institution to open doors and welcome students from every background, support for transformative experiences allows our students and faculty to fulfill their vast potential for leadership, and gifts toward discovery and excellence help us to serve and impact the world we share.

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