Ceremonial groundbreaking held for new Wellness Commons

A groundbreaking ceremony for the University’s new Wellness Commons was held Saturday, Sept. 22, as part of Family Weekend. The new fitness, health, and recreation facility is expected to open during spring semester 2020. It will house a fitness center, the Lee and Dorothy Thomas Wellness Center, the Sewanee Outing Program, a convenience store, and a grab-and-go café.

Joe DeLozier, C’77, P’16, and chair of the Board of Regents, welcomed students’ families and other guests to the groundbreaking and extended thanks to Vice-Chancellor John McCardell and Dean of Students Marichal Gentry for their tireless leadership of the “student-centric” project.


Vice-Chancellor McCardell in turn offered thanks to the alumni, parents, and friends who have demonstrated support to help bring the idea of the Wellness Commons this far. He recalled that the University’s first planning exercises for a University Commons resulted in a program design for a single large building—with both a footprint and a price that were outsized. Over the past few years, the University has moved toward the idea of a “distributed” Commons, incorporating elements of the original program in different but mostly proximate spaces–the now-completed Learning Commons in duPont Library, the Wellness Commons soon to be built, and a yet-to-be-designed recreational space or social commons on the site of Thompson Union just across the street from the Quad.

The new Wellness Commons, said McCardell, speaks to the importance of health and wellness on campus and in our students’ lives. At conclusion of his remarks, McCardell invited DeLozier and Gentry to join him in unveiling a large rendering of the new facility, to applause from the gathering.

He then introduced Marichal Gentry, who spoke about ways the Wellness Commons will enrich the lives of Sewanee students. “Ever since Aristotle talked about eudemonia, researchers, educators, and psychologists have explored what it means to be happy, to flourish,” said Gentry. “And at Sewanee, we also have been exploring ways to help students thrive.”

The new Wellness Commons will enhance existing programs and services for students’ success and wellbeing, as well as make them more readily available. It will “cultivate opportunities for students to build a foundation of wellness practices that will allow them to thrive here at Sewanee and after they graduate,” said Gentry.

The Wellness Center will continue to offer treatment and support for students’ medical, psychological, and disability-related needs; wellness outreach programs and regular workshops will also be available. Engagement with the Domain will continue through adventures offered by the SOP, and students will have expanded opportunities for physical well-being in the new fitness center. Added multi-purpose space will allow for expanded co-curricular wellness offerings, as well as to provide space for healthy late-night activities.

Following Gentry’s remarks, he, McCardell, DeLozier, and student leaders Kelsey Arbuckle, C’19, Mac Bouldin, C’19, and Mark Nabors, T'19, used golden shovels to ceremonially break ground for the new Commons. The actual heavy equipment will begin work on the site this semester.