No. 639



Several weeks ago, my good friend Cliff Garrison, gave me a personal tour of the new $23 million, 100,000-square-foot Hendrix College Wellness and Athletic Center. While I had never been inside before, one cannot help but be impressed by the massive, beautiful, two-story brick building that now sits across the street from where the old Grove Gymnasium used to be.
Grove Gym is where the Hendrix Warriors had played their athletic games, meets and contests since 1961. Actually, their athletic teams date back to 1906 (football) and 1908 (basketball); however football was discontinued in 1961.The basketball teams continued to enjoy great success, and in 1926 they began playing in the Axley Gymnasium, named for O.O. Axley of the Southern Lumber Company of Warren, who donated lumber for the building.
But, back to the new Hendrix College Wellness and Athletic Center. You talk about a country boy being impressed!! I had no sooner walked in the front door of the brand-spanking new building that I felt like the man who took his dog to the dog show. After a bit this fellow walked up to the chief judge and said, “Judge, I brought my dog to the show and I know he is just a mongrel, an ugly one at that, and he is not going to win anything. I just wanted him to meet some better dogs.” This is what I call “getting fit in style." In every respect, this is truly a state-of-the-art facility and, among small colleges, can be compared with any in the nation. Hendrix is a liberal arts Methodist college, with a little over 1,200 students.
Space will not permit me to give you the details, but here is s list of the things this facility contains: Event gym, recreation gym, running track, climbing wall, locker rooms, sports medicine room, fitness center, Hall of Honor room, kinesiology laboratory, classrooms, movement studio, alumni room, natatorium and office suite. From the office suite, one can view the turf field and track, soccer, baseball and softball fields, and a soon-to-be new tennis center.
The dedication and grand opening celebration for this new facility was held Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007, and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley gave the keynote address. The public was invited to attend, along with past and present Hendrix dignitaries, faculty, students, alumni and other supporters of the college. This was truly a historic occasion, as Hendrix College has made and will continue to make a vital contribution to our state and community for decades to come.
Earlier I mentioned my good friend, Cliff Garrison. Cliff ran up an impressive record in 31 years coaching the Warrior men’s basketball team. When he retired from coaching in 2003, Coach Garrison was the winningest “active” coach in the state with a 463-377 record. His honors and awards are far too numerous to mention, but the pinnacle came Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007, when the “Garrison Court” was dedicated in the new Hendrix Wellness and Athletic Center. It was my honor to be present for this most impressive event.
Cliff’s personal integrity and strength of character has influenced countless student athletes, inspiring them to excel on the court and beyond. Many people may not know that Hendrix teams compete in the NCAA Division Three sports, where no athletic scholarships are given. These young men and women compete for the love of the game, and character values are instilled all throughout the time they spend at Hendrix College. Here in Conway, we are proud to have Hendrix and this brand-new facility, and know that it will be used to produce real winners, on and off the court, in the years to come. Teaching is one of the greatest professions in the world.
At first glance, it may appear that all I am doing is showering accolades on this beautiful new facility. However, there is a much deeper and even a profound message here. The real message is the enduring nature of this fine college and the stabilizing influence it has on the lives of thousands of people, just by being there. Hendrix has been in our community for more than 100 years, and when you stop to think about all the college presidents, administration, faculty, students and support personnel, both now and in the past, you begin to see the contribution they have and continue to make, to our community, state, nation and especially in the lives of her students. Hendrix is a private college and new buildings and first-class facilities are only possible because of successful former alumni and others who share the vision of a quality education and are willing to support it.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)