The GO Pavilion

The GO Pavilion Groundbreaking

Comments by George Off
Friday, May 21, 2010

View photos of the groundbreaking ceremony.

George OffI have always felt honored to be a part of Eckerd college. I am also fully aware that the key to success for a pre-luncheon speaker is brevity. So I want to quickly share my thoughts about why I feel so good about Eckerd College.

First I want to thank my wife Tara. If truth be told, living with me is not exactly a day at the beach, but for nearly 20 years now, she has dedicated herself to keeping my ego in check. Although not a guarantee, she will probably be on her good behavior today, because her parents, Ron and Rosie Goforth are here from Dayton, OH. Thanks for coming guys.

We live in a beautiful countryside area west of Philadelphia. After a very tough winter, the transformation that comes with springtime is a simply amazing. Spirits lift as nature bursts forth energetically. Trees with new leaves, Azaleas, Dogwoods, red leaf maples, cherry blossoms surround you with dazzling color. You can't help but feel that something unstoppable is powering this transformation. I feel that same way about what I see at Eckerd.

I'm so thankful we had such great leaders, like Miles Collier and Grover Wren at the time the college struggled through financial difficulties. Miles quickly rallied the trustees with his 10-point plan, and Grover devoted most of his waking hours to the college. Fortunately, we were also blessed with a very capable dean of faculty, Lloyd Chapin. Despite terrible uncertainty, Lloyd and the faculty have never wavered from their mission to mentor students as they learn and develop.

The college struggled, but our prospects began to look like spring was coming, when we hired Don Eastman. Every day there is more evidence that he was the perfect person for the job. I remember that one of the first things Don did was to reach out and meet with each and every trustee. He even flew out to Colorado, and stayed with Tara, myself, our five dogs, and two cats. I was really impressed with Don's sincere interest in our input.

I also admire how he dealt with the new library project. John Galbraith's gift had an expiration clause, and we needed to be under construction almost immediately. Don kicked into high gear, hiring Ayer Saint Gross to help us with a campus master plan to find the best location for the library. That first Master Plan exercise was pivotal, because the Trustees, management, and faculty started to focus on the future.

The shinning success of the library project is well known. We proved to ourselves that we could complete an impressive project, true to its objectives, on time, and under budget. What a confidence builder. Credit the tremendous talents of Bill McKenna, Charlie Canerday, ASG, and Biltmore Construction. Shortly thereafter we were able to repeat the on time, under budget success with the new Iota dorm, including LEED certification.

As I look at Eckerd today, I am reminded of the Philadelphia spring. Eckerd is bursting with energy, dazzling with new developments in every dimension.

  • Something emotional comes over me, when I think about those teary eyed comments from Grover, describing how this college changed his life. For me, students are the most energizing aspect of Eckerd. My every encounter with students has always been uplifting. Lauren, our two-term, ECOS president is a prime example. Lauren, thank you for your kind comments earlier.
  • How about the work done by Jean Witner on the committee on trustees. We have added so much new talent. I'm especially fond of all those successful Eckerd Alums, who have joined the Board.
  • Or how about the marvelous job that Lisa Mets has done with “Communications.” We now enjoy a great reputation, and frequent positive exposure.
  • How about the incredible work that Lisa Mets has led on disaster planning, our plan is the envy of other schools
  • The campus has never looked better. Credit a tireless effort by Don, Bill, and Chris, and others.
  • The Chapel has a wonderful new look, inspiring new energy in our spiritual life program.
  • We have consistently met our goals for attracting and retaining students in spite of terrible economic pressure on families. Great work by John Sullivan
  • Our strategic plan, and the five-year financial plan would make any trustee proud. How about the tireless effort by Chris Brennan to get our accounting to where it needs to be? Our financial results are outstanding, with a strong balance sheet, and dramatically improved net unrestricted assets. My bet is that guy who was voted College CEO of the year by CASE, is doing a great job, and the numbers reflect it.
  • The capital campaign has been a huge success. You have to admire the work ethic of Matt Bisset. Alumni giving have increased dramatically, boding well for the future.
  • The new Molecular and Life Sciences Center will be spectacular. We have five top Architectural firms hungrily competing for our business, because they know it will be a great success.

How about some of the outstanding programs currently available? The Plight and Promise of Africa, Writer's in Paradise, the study abroad opportunities, in places like China? ESCAR students still rescuing boats in trouble on the Gulf. Our student newspaper now wins awards for journalism.

You can see why I feel so good about Eckerd. I want to say special thanks to the following people.

  • Thanks to Lloyd Chapin who has given us the best faculty in the land, and a curriculum that changes student's lives. Lloyd's most recent SAC's submission is a truly masterful documentation of the tremendous work being done here. Moving forward we have Dr. Betty Stewart, clearly anxious to lead us to the next level.
  • Thanks to Miles Collier. I know the history, I know the numbers, and I know that we would not be here today were it not for his leadership and generosity. And thanks to Grover, who was appropriately voted volunteer of the year by CASE. They just don't come any better than Miles and Grover.
  • and finally, thanks to Don Eastman, who has transformed this place into an unstoppable force. With Don at the helm, a dollar stretches a long way. You just know that every contribution dollar will have maximum impact.

So let me conclude with comments on the GO Pavilion.

On Don's first visit with us in Colorado, we discussed how the canopy-covered main terminal at the Denver airport has proven to be a very functional structure, despite driving snowstorms, howling winds, common in that part of the country. That airport sits way out on the plains. To me, that canopy structure, which portrays an Indian tee-pee village, in the setting of an ultra-modern Jet airport is a very striking image of old and new. Very creative!

When the campus master plan identified the opportunity for a canopy-covered, recreation facility, I sparked to the idea, and Don spotted my enthusiasm. Last year when he asked Tara and I to step up, we couldn't refuse, not with all that he has done for the college.

Nowadays we have incredibly capable planning teams for all our projects. And the GO pavilion is no exception, I want to thank the team led by Jim Annareli, Fred Saboda, Bill McKenna, ARC3, and Cannon Associates. They have captured the concept perfectly, to combine the exhilaration of being outdoors in this paradise location, with covered protection from sun and rain, elements that appear in abundance on this campus.

Can't wait to see it in action this Fall, can't wait to try it out!

Tara thought of the name, the GO Pavilion, and we hope it will fit well with a place that has become unstoppable. Tara and I are proud to be a part of this college.

Thank you.

View photos of the groundbreaking ceremony.