President Charles M. Vest announced at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new sports and fitness center last Friday that the center will be named for Albert and Barrie Zesiger. The Zesigers, both physical fitness enthusiasts, have committed $20 million toward the state-of-the-art facility.
President Vest said that when he discussed the honor with them, Mr. Zesiger (SB 1951) said, "In five years, they'll be calling it the Z Center." Actually, it took only a little more than five minutes. Two of the succeeding speakers, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict and Professor Thomas J. Allen, chair of the Athletics Board, both used the phrase "Z Building" in referring to the $45 million center, which is scheduled to open in 2002.
"If any building symbolizes MIT's motto of mens et manus -- mind and hand -- this is it," President Vest told the audience of about 400 gathered under a tent next to the Johnson Athletics Center. "Athletics help to build strength, stamina and energy -- we know that. But they also help to sharpen leadership and teamwork skills and build community. Such skills and values are essential to preparing students to become the leaders of the next generation.
"And while our first interest is in providing our students with more opportunities and better facilities for athletics and recreation, I believe this building will become a magnet for students, faculty and staff alike. In so doing, it will strengthen our sense of community and make the MIT experience even better for our students."
Director of Athletics Richard A. Hill said, "In the classrooms across MIT, our students are prepared for successful careers. No finer education is available anywhere. It is our hope that this beautiful new sports and fitness center will help prepare our students for a successful and balanced life. We can think of no higher goal."
In his brief remarks, Mr. Zesiger recalled that he had received a $700 scholarship when he entered MIT in 1947. Allowing for inflation and compound interest, he said, "I figure I'm just paying back my scholarship."
The Zesigers began their day by jogging on the renovated indoor track in the Johnson Athletic Center. In the near future, they look forward to taking a dip in the 50-meter Olympic-class pool that will be a centerpiece of the new facility.
Barrie Zesiger, a member of the MIT Corporation, told the audience at the groundbreaking that when she thought about the completed center, she visualized an impromptu race in the pool between Professor Rosalind Williams and a student that led to a lasting relationship. She said she envisions the center as a place for faculty, administrators, students and staff to mingle and develop friendships.
"Start digging!" she said.
Ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned over by 21 people, including the Zesigers and other key contributors including Alex d'Arbeloff (SB 1949 and chair of the MIT Corporation) and Brit d'Arbeloff (SM 1961); Thomas P. Gerrity Jr. (SB 1963) and Ann Gerrity; Thomas Folger (SB 1949) and Dorothy Folger; and Thomas and Nicole Hynes, the parents of junior Todd Hynes, a member of the football, hockey, lacrosse and golf teams.
Other contributors to the building who were not able to be present include Anthony Jules (SB 1992), Paul Mosher (SB 1955) and Wanda Mosher, Harry Steinman (SB 1933), Harold J. Muckley (SB 1939), and Elizabeth Muckley, honoring her husband, who died last April.
Besides the pool, the center includes a state-of-the-art health-fitness center that will accommodate 200 to 250 users, a multi-activity court, six squash courts, 600 lockers, swimming and water polo team rooms, a sports medicine center, administrative offices and other support facilities. It was designed by the architectural firms of Roche & Dinkeloo and Sasaki Associates and is being built by Turner Construction Co.
In their remarks, President Vest and Professor Hill thanked the following people for their roles in nurturing the project into reality: President Emeritus Howard W. Johnson, retired Senior Vice President William R. Dickson, Executive Vice President John R. Curry, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow, Director of Facilities Vicki V. Sirianni, Project Manager John B. Hawes, Treasurer Allan S. Bufferd, Senior Real Estate Officer Michael K. Owu, former Athletics Director Royce Flippin, Senior Major Gifts Officer Sandy Washburn, Director of the Office of Principal Gifts Lucy V. Miller, Assistant Athletic Director John A. Benedick, Assistant Head of Athletics Daniel Martin, and Mary Frances Wagley (SB 1947), the first woman to serve as a member of the Corporation and the first woman president of the Association of Alumni and Alumnae.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 1, 2000.