ROCK HILL, S.C. - The couple now in their 18th year of making Winthrop University the center of their lives are being honored by having a $22 million new Campus Center named for them.
The Winthrop Board of Trustees adopted a resolution April 7 naming the upcoming facility the "Anthony J. and Gale N. DiGiorgio Campus Center" to honor the university’s veteran president and "first lady" for their continuing combined commitment “to the creation of an engaged community” on the Winthrop campus.
Board Chair Karl Folkens said Winthrop has a tradition of naming university buildings after presidents who have served a significant tenure, including D.B. Johnson (Johnson Hall), James Kinard (Kinard Hall), Shelton Phelps (Phelps Hall) and Henry Sims (Sims Science Building). DiGiorgio began his presidency at Winthrop in 1989 and is currently the state’s longest-serving public university president. He also is the second longest-serving president at Winthrop after Johnson, who led Winthrop from its founding in 1886 until his death in 1928. Johnson’s wife, Mai, also played a major role on campus, fostering campus spirit and making connections within the Rock Hill community, much like Gale DiGiorgio has done for nearly two decades since arriving in Rock Hill.
Folkens indicated that those board members who this summer will conclude terms of service of as much as 12 years suggested the step be taken now, even though groundbreaking for the DiGiorgio Center is over a year away. "They wanted to be sure it would be done, and done on their watch," Folkens said, adding that some on the board are trustees who have spent over a decade of their lives as stewards of Winthrop. "They’ve all seen for years how Tony and Gale work in tandem to create a campus community where students, faculty, and staff value each other and recognize they all learn from each other. Promoting that spirit is a 24/7 commitment to the DiGiorgios, and naming the Campus Center in their honor is a way to recognize that commitment."
Board members Skip Tuttle, Mary Jean Martin, and Polly Ford of Rock Hill will be leaving the board at the end of June. Tuttle and Martin have each served terms as chairs of the board; Tuttle is currently vice-chair.
Tuttle said the local trustees have a particular appreciation of the DiGiorgios’ level of commitment to both the campus community and the Rock Hill Community. "Winthrop would not be achieving all that it is without their energy and commitment,” said Tuttle. "Part of the special mission of a public university is community service, and the DiGiorgios exemplify that in activities ranging from economic development, to tutoring, to service with a range of arts and civic organizations. They are great role models for student engagement, and since the Campus Center is where a lot of those special interactions will occur, we thought it the perfect part of the campus to bear their names."
Ford, who represents the Winthrop Alumni Association, is also a retired faculty member. She noted that "alumni especially appreciate how Tony and Gale do so much to give contemporary life to some of Winthrop’s timeless values and traditions. The campus is growing, but the new facilities look like they belong at Winthrop. In this day and age, that deserves special recognition."
Winthrop board members said the DiGiorgio Center will be a place where students can come together in social and academic activities that bear out the DiGiorgios’ vision of an engaged community. The DiGiorgios have been unwavering in establishing the Winthrop experience as a time for engaged growth, enlightenment and transformation. The new four-story facility is intentionally designed to enhance that collegiate experience. It will feature a two-story glass atrium containing a "smart wall" with updated campus news events, an outdoor plaza, a bookstore, a conference area, student activity spaces, a food court, multipurpose banquet rooms for special events and a 225-seat movie theatre.
The DiGiorgio Center will be the third major project of the new 'heart of campus' development plan that is currently under way. The plan is designed to move the center of campus west from Oakland Avenue and create a pedestrian-orientated campus core. The $24 million Lois Rhame West Health, Physical Education and Wellness Center is expected to open to classes in spring 2007, and site preparation is near completion for the $6.5 million Owens Hall, a high-tech classroom building. The "heart of the campus" plan is already fully funded and constitutes Winthrop’s leadership investment in the revitalization of Rock Hill’s Textile Corridor.
DiGiorgio was named Winthrop University’s ninth president in 1989. Before the couple moved to Rock Hill, DiGiorgio was the academic vice president at the College of New Jersey, while Gale DiGiorgio was the dean of students at Arcadia University. Since their arrival in Rock Hill, Winthrop University has grown from a regional college with a venerable history to a national-caliber comprehensive university that helps set the pace for quality higher education. It is regularly rated among the top public institutions of its kind, winning accolades for academic excellence, emphasis on students’ personal character development, commitment to diversity, award-winning student programming, sound fiscal management, and overall institutional excellence. It has been named to three national "best value" higher education lists: Consumers Digest, Barron’s Best Buys and The Princeton Review.