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The power of the gift

The ball is in play! Wofford breaks ground for the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium with celebratory tip-off event.

The Wofford community came out in force on Oct. 20 to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new home for basketball and volleyball with a tip-off event, complete with stadium stands, fans, cheerleaders and a festive game-day atmosphere. 

The celebration’s most valuable player, Jerry Richardson ’59, arrived at the event by driving a golf cart through a tunnel of hundreds of cheering student-athletes and excited, thankful members of the Wofford community.

“Tip-offs in basketball start the game,” opened President Nayef Samhat. “There are no dunks, blocks or steals without a tip-off. Breaking ground today on the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium is the start of something very special that, along with the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts, will be a game-changer for Wofford College.”

Richardson, joined at the tip-off by his wife, Rosalind Sallenger Richardson, personally provided the gift to fund the facility. The indoor stadium, slated for completion in September 2017, promises to be one of the finest, most well-conceived and most advanced arenas in all of college sports. Richardson also provided a gift to build the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts, future home to academic programs in theatre, visual arts and art history.

“When Wofford decided to make the move from Division II to Division I, there was fear that we would be tempted to recruit and enroll star athletes but not star students. If anything, our standards have increased, and this facility will show our unwavering commitment to excellence in every facet of the Wofford experience,” said head men’s basketball coach Mike Young.

Young continued his comments by presenting Richardson with one of the seats that make up the men’s basketball team bench. The seat was marked, “Reserved for #51,” Richardson’s Wofford football jersey number. 

“As we break ground today on the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium, gratefulness just scratches the surface of how we feel,” said Young. “Mr. Richardson, we sure are glad that you’re on our team. You have a seat on our bench anytime—literally!” 

Richardson immediately stood and had the chair he was sitting in replaced with his personalized bench seat, drawing laughter from an energized crowd.

Wofford’s newest member of the coaching staff, head volleyball coach Lynze Roos, followed Young at the podium. “When volleyball or basketball players lace up their shoes, step onto the arena floor and play in the finest facility in the Southern Conference, they will think of Mr. Richardson—and his ability to grasp the opportunities given to him as a young man on this very same ground—where he competed, studied and gave back to the community he believed in,” said Roos.

Not to be upstaged by her coaching colleague, Roos added, “Now, Mr. Richardson, Coach Young has offered you a seat on the men’s basketball bench any time, but we coaches are competitive, so I just can’t resist the opportunity to top that.” To the fans’ delight, two volleyball players immediately produced two chairs on the platform, marked with “Mr. Richardson our MVP” and “Mrs. Richardson our MVP.”

It was women’s basketball player Kentra Washington ’17, however, who offered the most poignant words. 

“I am honored to represent past, present and future student-athletes here today,” Washington said to the crowd. “Mr. Richardson, we realize the significance of the gift you’ve given us, and we feel the weight of responsibility we have as student-athletes to use this facility and our gifts wisely—to become the best student-athletes, citizens and leaders we can be, and to leave Wofford College better than we found it. We all strive to follow your example.”

Washington then called on her fellow student-athletes representing all teams and sitting on stands behind the podium to produce large-scale renderings of the new stadium and a sign reading, “Thank you, Mr. Richardson!”

Board chair Harold Chandler ’71 summarized the spirit of the Richardsons by closing: “Along with genuine words of thanks, I suggest we consider committing ourselves to living a life as they have lived… unparalleled dedication, purposeful leadership in work and life, humility, compassion, generosity. Let’s allow the reflection of them to be seen in our lives, in what we do for others and in what we do for Wofford College.”

by Annie S. Mitchell