Tucker Student Center Dedication Brings Hundreds to Gardner-Webb

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Tucker Family Announces Surprise Donation of $500,000

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – In 2010, Gardner-Webb received the largest donation in the University’s history when the Tucker family gave a $5 million gift toward the construction of a new student center.  On Tuesday, over two years later, GWU welcomed the Tuckers and other notable guests to the ribbon cutting and open house of the Tucker Student Center as it was unveiled to the community.  And Bob Tucker took everyone by surprise when, at the conclusion of the dedication ceremony, he announced his intent to donate even more money to the University.

“I remember once being in New York, and I crossed the street and saw a homeless man.  I gave him $5 or $10.  I’ll never forget his face and I always wondered if I gave enough.  So I’m going to give another half-million dollars in honor of Dr. Dee Hunt,” he announced as the crowd broke into applause and Hunt’s face crumpled with emotion.

The ceremony and dedication included remarks from GWU President Dr. Frank Bonner, key donors, and community leaders.  Tours of the facility were given throughout the celebration event, special videos were played, and live music was provided courtesy of the School of Performing and Visual Arts.  At 4 p.m., dignitaries and special guests gathered in Stewart Hall (inside the Tucker Student Center) and commemorated the completion of the center with the official ribbon cutting.  “We thank all of you for praying and giving and working tirelessly to make this day possible,” Bonner said as he acknowledged the efforts of all involved in the project.

On March 30, 2010, Bonner stood alongside Bob and Carolyn Tucker and their daughter, Lisa, and announced the largest donation in Gardner-Webb history.  The Tucker family shared personal experiences that led them to such monumental support of this worthy project.  “I want to be on board with an organization that is changing lives,” Carolyn Tucker said at the time.  “I’ve seen so many instances of young people, including my daughter, who went to Gardner-Webb, and they were changed by being there.”

Lisa Tucker, who graduated from GWU in 1989 with a physical education degree, echoed her mother’s sentiments.  “Gardner-Webb believes in personal attention for the students,” she said.  “It follows the example of Jesus.  He paid attention to the one sheep, he paid attention to the people that no one else would.  That is what this University is about.”

The Tucker’s donation marked the beginning of many other sizable contributions towards the project from individuals and businesses including the Frank Stewart family, Duke Energy, the Cannon Foundation, Shelby Savings Bank, and others.  Building plans were drawn, and construction was soon underway.  Over the past two years, noteworthy moments included the “Topping Off” ceremony last November, in which the final rooftop truss was signed by students, faculty, staff, and donors, and then placed above the center’s main entrance.

“It is quite fitting that they [the students] had an opportunity to permanently inscribe their names and solidify their presence within the walls of such an important structure on our campus,” said Bonner.

Features of the building and various elements of its architecture were designed specifically to reflect aspects of the Gardner-Webb culture.  Open staircases, skylight ceilings, cross-facility views, floor to ceiling expanses, and fresh-air balconies convey a sense of transparency and authenticity, while maintaining a cozy and comforting atmosphere.  “I see it as a home away from home on campus,” said Student Government Association President Michelle Palacio. “A place where I can come and be comfortable and do all sorts of things in one day.  Whether that’s catching a meal, studying or maybe even taking a nap.  It’s really a place where students can feel at home on campus.”

Holland and Hamrick Architects discussed those goals and many others as they began drawing up plans for the new center.  “We didn’t want to compartmentalize students into small study areas,” Roger Holland recalled.  “We wanted them to feel connected whether they were studying, eating, socializing, or just interacting as they move through the building.  We’ve designed this center so that students are never isolated from one another.”

The 110,000 square-foot building offers stunning views of the Lake Hollifield Complex from porches that feature double-sided fireplaces, giving students an outdoor lounging option even during chilly fall and spring evenings.  Indoors, the Frank Stewart Hall can be combined into one extra-large auditorium, or separated into three smaller venues.  Intimate workspaces line the main floor, giving students, study groups, clubs, and other users a place to launch and complete their projects.

Entertainment options include a multi-story rock climbing wall, a movie theater and screening room, pool tables, air hockey, lounge areas, and more.  The campus store and post office are also located in the center along with a variety of other university offices and departments.  An art gallery, three restaurants and a coffee shop round out the amenities available in the new facility.

Dr. Dee Hunt is vice-president and dean of student development for GWU, and she served as a coach, teacher, and mentor for Lisa Tucker during her time at the University.  Hunt hopes students realize that the Tucker Student Center is the product of an effort to give them a transformational gathering place.

“We are about students. That’s who we serve,” said Hunt. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for students.  This is their building and it was made with them in mind.”