Neumann University opens, names new athletic center

Neumann University opened its new Mirenda Center for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development with a blessing and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, October 17. The building is named after Dr. Rosalie Mirenda, president of the University, and her husband Tony. Dr. Mirenda has been with Neumann since 1973 and president for the last 13 years.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, blessed the facility.

Designed to be more than an athletic center, the building uses exhibits and storytelling to provide a new perspective on sports, one that goes beyond the obvious element of competition to address the myriad ways in which students learn life lessons and develop character through athletics.

Inside the main lobby that stretches across the entire façade of the Center, visitors will find five illuminated pillars, each of which is home to an exhibit that focuses on examining sports in conjunction with a specific theme. The topics of play, beauty, respect, reflection and balance guide the content of the exhibits, which explore the connection between sports and spiritual growth.

Content ranges from the humorous to the heartwarming. One exhibit tells the tale of Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University. After she hit her first career home run in a game against Central Washington, she collapsed with a knee injury at first base. In an act of sportsmanship, two players from Central Washington’s team carried the injured Tucholsky around the bases so she could complete her home run.

Images of, quotes by or stories about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Cappelletti, Roberto Clemente, Babe Didrikson, Lou Gehrig, Mike Krzyzewski, Willie Mays, Wilma Rudolph, Jim Valvano and other well known sports figures are included in the exhibits.

Deeper inside the Center, around the running track that circles the main gymnasium, interactive audio exhibits will be installed this year. The recordings will offer inspirational sports stories and even allow visitors to record their own sports-related experiences that led to a spiritual insight or epiphany.

The Center is also home to the Institute for Sport, Spirituality and Character Development. Founded in 1999, the four-member Institute promotes the inherent value of sport as a means of moral and spiritual growth through research, presentations, workshops and teaching. The director of the Institute and one of the principal sources of the exhibit content is Ed Hastings, Ph.D. Hastings played basketball at Villanova University and was a starter on the 1971 team that lost the NCAA national championship game to UCLA.

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