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Ohio Wesleyan Receives More Than $12.25 Million in Alumni Gifts
Contributions Support Plans for New Branch Rickey Athletics Complex, Aquatics Center, More

May 16, 2008

DELAWARE, OHIO – Ohio Wesleyan University announced today it has received two alumni gifts totaling more than $12.25 million to expand and enhance its sports facilities, including long-term plans to build a new Branch Rickey Athletics Complex. The project will begin with construction of a new aquatics and recreation center.

The alumni gifts also will help endow the directorship of the Richard M. Ross Art Museum and support additional campus initiatives.

The gifts were made by two couples who met while attending Ohio Wesleyan. George H. and Patricia “Patsy” Belt Conrades of Boston, Mass., graduated in 1961 and 1963, respectively. They have given a $6.25 million gift to provide seed money for the university to create and execute a long-term plan to build the Branch Rickey Athletics Complex on the southeastern edge of Ohio Wesleyan’s 200-acre campus.

Phillip J. and Nancy La Porte Meek of Greenwich, Conn., both graduated in 1959. They have given a multiyear gift of more than $6 million, including $3.5 million to support construction of the Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center. When completed, the Meek Center will contain a 25-yard, eight-lane pool and a diving well, as well as classrooms and offices. Just like Ohio Wesleyan’s current natatorium, the Meek Center will be available for public use. It currently is in the design and permit stage.

The Meek gift also includes $500,000 to help endow the directorship of the Ross Art Museum along with additional funds to support Ohio Wesleyan’s Annual Fund and to support creation of a new campus entranceway along South Sandusky Street. The contribution includes a $2 million estate gift.

Rock Jones, Ph.D., Ohio Wesleyan’s incoming president, said both gifts exemplify the generosity of the university’s alumni.

“I am impressed Ohio Wesleyan’s alumni remain so loyal and committed to ensuring that the university continues to move forward with such purpose and vision,” said Jones, who collaborated with both couples in their gift giving. “The generosity of George and Patsy, and of Phil and Nancy, will help us to meet the needs of our students for years to come.”

A portion of the Conrades gift is being used to fund design and engineering work for the Branch Rickey Athletics Complex. This work is being completed by The Collaborative, Inc., a Toledo-based architectural firm, in conjunction with creation of a facilities master plan that examines Ohio Wesleyan’s overall academic, residential, and athletics infrastructure needs.

Long-term plans for the Branch Rickey Athletics Complex call for the replacement and relocation of the current Branch Rickey Arena and Richard Gordon Field House in a setting that includes an outdoor memorial to Rickey, one of the university’s most famous alumni. Short-term components include building the Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center, installing stadium lights at Selby Field, and replacing the playing surface and netting at Gordon Field House.

Another key component of the Branch Rickey Athletics Complex will be the construction of a new pedestrian walkway to connect the university’s sports facilities. The walkway will be named in honor of Arthur A. Belt, a 1934 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, a Battling Bishop football player, and the father of Patsy Belt Conrades.

The Arthur A. Belt Memorial Walkway will be known informally as the “BELTway.” It will join the university’s only other named walkway, the “JAYwalk,” officially known as the James A. Young Memorial Walkway. A former chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, Young’s initials provide the JAYwalk’s distinctive name.

“My father knew and admired Branch Rickey,” said Patsy Belt Conrades, co-chair of the university’s current capital campaign and a physical education major at Ohio Wesleyan. “George and I are pleased to be able to honor both men and to support Ohio Wesleyan athletics with this gift. We consider this seed money to help grow an important dream.”

A 1904 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, Rickey is a Major League Baseball legend. As president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he opened the door for Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color barrier. Rickey has been honored as ESPN’s most influential sports figure of the 20th century.

George and Patsy Conrades previously have supported multiple Ohio Wesleyan projects and initiatives, including construction of the Schimmel/Conrades Science Center and creation of the Arthur A. Belt Fitness Center.

The Meeks also are longtime supporters of Ohio Wesleyan, with their past gifts including creation of the Phillip J. and Nancy La Porte Meek Community Leadership and Service Grant Program, as well as endowed chairs in both the departments of economics and fine arts.

During her time at Ohio Wesleyan, Nancy La Porte Meek was a member of the Dolphins, the university’s synchronized swim team.

“Phil and I are excited to be able to support Ohio Wesleyan at such a vital time in its history,” she said. “We credit the university with creating a strong foundation for our lives, and we want to help ensure that other students enjoy the same transformational experience.”

“We are pleased to help Ohio Wesleyan continue to move forward with our current gift and our planned future gift,” Phillip Meek added. “These are investments that we believe will benefit the institution today, tomorrow, and forever.”

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.