Dreams Fulfilled with Dedication of the Stevens Center
SPOKANE, Wash. – The dream of many came to fruition Thursday with the official dedication of the Stevens Center, Gonzaga University’s new state-of-the-art indoor tennis and golf facility.
Jeff and Sharon Stevens and Jim and Gwen Powers, the major benefactors behind the project, were honored by Gonzaga President Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil., in a ceremony on the viewing area above the six regulation tennis courts.
The ceremony included speeches from benefactors Jeff Stevens and Jim Powers, athletic director Mike Roth, Dr. McCulloh and a blessing of the facility from Fr. Frank Case, S.J., Gonzaga’s vice-president of mission.
“A facility like this one is a game changer,” remarked Roth. “We have seen immediate accomplishments from each of the programs already this spring. It is no longer ‘build it and they will come’. It is now ‘build it and they will win’. On behalf of the University, we thank everyone involved to make this facility a reality.”
Named after Jeff and Sharon Stevens for their major outpouring of support, the 72,000-square-foot facility on the edge of the Gonzaga campus includes six regulation tennis courts and a golf practice area. Prominent features of the center include modern locker rooms, training rooms, team lounge, offices and balcony seating.
“This is truly a realization of a dream,” stated Dr. McCulloh. “Today is a special day for us to appreciate how beautiful this facility is and how much this can impact our student-athletes. This will help prepare our student-athletes for continued success and provide a real home for these programs.”
The Stevens’, who have Gonzaga ties from their son Colin who graduated from GU in 2013 and was a manager for the men’s basketball team for three seasons, are both graduates of the University of Arizona. Jeff is a founding partner of Western Refining, Inc., a Fortune 500 oil refining and marketing company. He currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the company. Sharon carries dual degrees in accounting and management information systems and was a certified public accountant.
The elder Stevens admitted he had never heard of Gonzaga until Colin came home one day from high school and asked if they could visit Gonzaga. Father and son made the trek to Spokane – “it was a long ways from Phoenix,” Jeff recalled.
When the duo landed Jeff said it was about 10 degrees and told Sharon in a phone conversation there was no way Colin was going to choose Gonzaga. On the flight home Jeff quizzed his son on where he was going to attend college.
“I’m going to Gonzaga,” Colin informed him.
“We came up a lot of times his freshman year to do the parent thing,” Jeff said. “And we met some wonderful people. The first person we met was Coach Hertz (associate athletic director/major gifts Steve) and he has since made a huge impression on my family. I have been associated with athletics for a long time and GU is fortunate for how special and caring of a man he is. From day one we were a member of his family and we cannot thank him enough.”
The second person he said they met was Rian Oliver, at the time the men’s basketball academic coordinator.
“Colin really wanted me to thank Rian,” Jeff said. “She was always there for him when he was up and when he was down. Her impact made him a better student and a better person.”
Jim and Gwen Powers reside in Denver, Colo., and have a passion for Gonzaga athletics. Jim, who attended GU with his brother Tom, currently serves on the board of trustees. Gwen graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“We both love this school and love these students,” Jim said. “That is what we are here for, the students. Gonzaga is full of great students and student-athletes because of the incredible faculty, staff and administration. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us to be a part of this great institution.”
Contributions from the Powers family made the golf portion of the facility possible.
The generous support of both families has paved the way for continued success for the tennis and golf programs. The new home will be instrumental in the programs recruiting and success on and off the court.
In addition to the support from the Stevens and Powers families, Gonzaga recognized Carl and Lori Grether; Pat and Sandy Volkar; John and Nancy Rudolf; John and Joan Bollier, and Bill and Judi Williams, and Each family made considerable contributions to make the Stevens Center the premiere tennis and golf facility on the West Coast.