SAU breaks ground on wellness/rec center


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Excitement was in the air as students at St. Ambrose University cheered and used little clappers to make noise at a groundbreaking ceremony April 7 for the new Wellness and Recreation Center.

On April 6, the university publicly announced an $18.5 million capital campaign titled Building Our Future to build the Wellness and Recreation Center on campus. In addition to students, the groundbreaking outside the Rogalski Center drew faculty and staff, board members, representatives of Iowa congressional offices, Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch, several city council members, business people and others from the community.

Anne Marie Amacher Bishop Martin Amos and others involved in the Building Our Future capital campaign break ground April 7 for a new $18.5 million Wellness and Recreation Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Martin Amos and others involved in the Building Our Future capital campaign break ground April 7 for a new $18.5 million Wellness and Recreation Center at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

“It is wonderful to look around and see so many familiar faces here with us on this historic occasion,” St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, said. “We celebrate the support you have already given toward making our Wellness and Recreation Center, which has been a dream for a long time, a reality. …The time has come for us to provide state-of-the-art wellness, recreation and athletics facilities that will serve the whole student in body, mind and spirit.”


Klipsch spoke about the economic impact the project will have on the Quad-City community. The mayor, who also teaches a leadership class at St. Ambrose, said “Davenport is truly proud to call this remarkable university our own. … We look forward to all that this new facility will add to this campus and to Davenport and to all the new and exciting ways in which St. Ambrose University and the City of Davenport can partner to ‘Build Our Future’ together.”

Biology major Jenny Lopez, a member of the cross-country and track and field teams, also spoke. She is a national champion in the 3,000-meter race walk and will participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials in June.

Lopez said the new facility will help her and her teammates get better and give them a home for the indoor season. “I think I speak for my fellow varsity athletes – and there are about 800 of us – when I say this new center will help us grow as student-athletes. And our teams will get better because this will help us recruit. So maybe we will have more national champions.”

Student Devin Hartman said the building will also benefit non-varsity athletes. “I work out and lift weights five days a week and cannot wait to use the training facility.” He said the much-needed facility will benefit those who participate in intramural activities. “As one of many students majoring in exercise science, I know that state-of-the-art facilities are going to take my academic experience to a new level.”
Bishop Martin Amos blessed the site and then groups took turns breaking ground.

Leadership gifts

More than $13 million out of $18.5 million has been raised toward St. Ambrose University’s Building Our Future campaign.
During a press conference April 6, co-chairs Mike and Barb Johnson announced several leadership gifts of $1 million or more toward the project. Several major donors wish to remain anonymous.
Among the leadership gifts are:
• Richard McCarthy Trust. The late Richard McCarthy, a 1946 alumnus, founded the law firm McCarthy, Callas, Fuhr & Ellison, PC, in Rock Island, Ill. McCarthy Hall on the St. Ambrose campus is named in honor of him.
• Joyce and Joe O’Rourke. Joe, class of ‘72, serves on the board of trustees and on the Building Our Future campaign council. He recently retired as an officer and stockholder of O’Rourke Sales Company in Davenport.
• Campaign co-chairs Brian and Beth (Figge) Lemek. Both are 1986 alumni. Brian is owner/manager member of Lemek LLC and Beth is a community leader. She also is a member of the Figge family, which has a long history of community engagement in Davenport.
• The children of John “Jack” and Patricia Bush. “This was a collective gift made by the Bush family children and their spouses, to honor Jack and Pat,” Barb (Bush) Johnson said. “They left us a legacy to follow.” Barb and her husband, Mike, are campaign co-chairs.
Updates on the campaign and building progress, including a webcam to watch construction progress, is available on the St. Ambrose website at

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