News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 3, 2013

SMWC names sports complex after late Sister

Officials break ground for $11 million project that honors school’s 12th president

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

ST. MARY-OF-THE-WOODS — The new Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Sports and Recreation Center will be named after the late Sister Jeanne Knoerle, the college’s 12th president.

College officials and other dignitaries broke ground for the $11 million project Tuesday. The 43,000 square-foot building will be located on the west edge of campus, behind the Mary and Andy Rooney Library.

Sister Knoerle “passionately believed in this project,” said Dottie King, the college’s current president. “She saw the need and she saw what could become of it, and she believed.”

Knoerle served as an honor co-chair of the fundraising campaign executive committee, contributed to the campaign and assisted with fundraising. “I think she is smiling today and I think she is with us,” King said.

Knoerle, who died June 10, was the college’s president from 1968 to1983.

The new facility will have an NCAA regulation-sized gym seating about 1,000 spectators as well as a practice gym that could be used for intramural sports.

It will feature a 2,000-square-foot lobby, with flexible space for functions and activities, as well as locker rooms, a training room, a fitness center, storage space and offices for a growing athletic program.

The goal is for the facility to be completed in about 10 months, which means it would be open in time for the 2014-15 women’s basketball season.

Knoerle Center will give the college’s basketball players something they have long  hoped for, a home court advantage, said Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett.

Now, the team practices and plays home games at a community center in Clinton. The intent is to play next year’s basketball game against Rose-Hulman at Knoerle Center, King has said.

The facility is the Woods’ first new building in many years, Bennett said. “Here today we are celebrating a major, major new infusion of energy and excitement for the Saint Mary of the Woods campus.”

The new complex has been many years in the making and involved three presidents, Sister Joan Lescinski, David Behrs and King. The campaign has had setbacks along the way, but just as some support fell away, others stepped up to keep it moving forward, King said.

She thanked the SMWC family and community partners for their support. “This is a long-time dream come true,” King said. “It’s been a struggle; it’s been a labor of love. Because of that, we all feel a sense of how precious today is.”

Ralph Wagle, of Garmong Construction,  said the project is not so much about the bricks and mortar — it’s about the community and those who have worked so hard to make Knoerle Center a reality.

The college and Garmong have developed a strong partnership, he said. “We have celebrated the victories and likewise we’ve shared and suffered the disappointments and setbacks, but there was never a question this day would come.”

Garmong is the project’s construction manager. The company will install a webcam on-site so people can watch day-to-day progress.

The college is still raising funds for its Pomeroy Pride campaign, with about another $1.1 million to reach the $11 million goal.

Officials believe the new facility will help recruit students and student-athletes.

Knoerle Center also will host the Pomeroy Wellness Program, which will offer on-site health screenings, health education programs and physical fitness activities benefiting residents of western Vigo County as well as Woods’ students and employees.

The program will be funded through a $100,000 Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation grant to the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce Better Health Wabash Valley initiative. Several community partners will be involved.

Among those attending the groundbreaking was Na-Shaunda Rayford, a Woods freshman who is on the Pomeroy basketball team. She looks forward to playing home games in the new facility, especially the game against crosstown rival Rose-Hulman.

Also, the new facility “will mean more gym time for us,” she said.

Mikayla Metheny, a Woods sophomore and basketball player, said it will be nice to “finally have a court to call our own.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or