Tenth anniversary celebration looks at the past and future

Tuesday was one of the rare occasions that more people were wearing leather formal shoes than rubber athletic shoes inside the UM Wellness Center.

The celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Wellness Center’s opening brought together a number of well known UM figures inside the William R. Butler atrium.

Alongside President Donna E. Shalala were two of UM’s past presidents, Henry King Stanford and Edward “Tad” Foote. Stanford, who will be celebrating his 90th birthday in April, stood and waved his Sebastian-clad hat during the opening introductions.

Sebastian the Ibis began the event with the ‘Canes spell-out cheer. Following that, he was joined by Norm Parsons, director of the Wellness Center, who thanked the Bermont family for its financial contributions to the celebration.

Don Slesnick, mayor of Coral Gables, read a proclamation that declared Jan. 18 “Wellness Center Day.” In a subsequent speech, Student Government President Pete Maki read a resolution passed by the Senate reiterating the dedication of the day.

Irwin Raij, the 1992 SG President, was among several individuals who had played significant roles in the construction and planning of the center more than 14 years ago. Raij was influential in the student voice to build a new fitness complex for the campus.

William R. Butler, who the atrium of the building is named after, gave brief remarks in which he indicated that he personally waters the four palm trees that are the center of the atrium.

“This building brings people together to do what they love to do,” Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs, said.

Shalala congratulated the past and present student leaders, naming the building a tribute to the student leadership at UM.

“The success of [the Wellness Center] has inspired a 16,000-square-foot center to be built at the medical campus,” Shalala said.

She also went on to say that after hurricane season it was decided that the Wellness Center is the strongest and safest building to be in during a storm.

Plans to expand the Wellness Center are in the works, but have been slowed until the funds can be raised to begin construction.

“We are going to remove the courtyard to expand the facility 7,000 square feet,” Parsons said.

Other plans include adding two more multipurpose group exercise rooms, increasing the number of classes and the club sports programs.

The fundraising project is donor driven and will not affect student activity fees.

“[The mayor] has already issued the permits; we just have to find about $10 million to build it,” Shalala said.

The Wellness Center has become an important part of the student life at UM, encouraging a balanced student. Nearly six million people passed through the Center last year, including students, faculty, tour groups and various other members of the community.

“I’d like to think you get a higher quality education at UM and a higher quality life at the Wellness Center,” Parsons said.

Stacey Arnold can be contacted at s.arnold@umiami.edu.