“It has taken us 25 years of dreaming and work to get to this building. As an investment, it was well worth it.” — President Tracy Fitzsimmons
Shenandoah University Opens James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center
The opening of the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center in January has dramatically raised the bar for Shenandoah University, its 21 teams and the regional community. What began as a decades-long dream to build a top-notch facility for competitive collegiate athletics and community events is now a dream come true, as the facility has become a sought-after destination for exciting competition, a place where students begin journeys and celebrate their achievements, and where the regional community can gather for large events as well as concerts and sit-down dinners.
To finally have a place we can call our own is incredible. The team is breaking records left and right! We love it!” —Kayla McGhee ’19, track & field and cross country
A Place for Division III Athletics
Standing as a beacon off Interstate 81, the WAEC’s castle-like facade is unmistakable. Not only is the multipurpose fieldhouse space designed for varsity competition and practice with a wood basketball and volleyball court, it boasts a 200-meter, six-lane competition track with eight sprint lanes and throwing, sand pit and pole vaulting areas, and it’s the only the second indoor track & field facility in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
All 21 sports benefit from its design and amenities for student-athletes, which allow multiple teams to practice at once, supporting the university’s athletics motto of “21 Sports, 1 Team.”
With retractable seating for 1,700, Hornets fans can cheer on their favorite teams in this state-of-the-art facility. And a new parking garage, located immediately north of Sprint Field at Shentel Stadium, can accommodate fan and guest parking.
The amount of school spirit and pride generated by this building is really tremendous. We are reaching for the stars and this building is going to allow us to continue to do that. It will increase the reputation and visibility of the institution and will add to our abilities to recruit terrific students and to train and graduate those students for the good of the community.” —Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.
Creating Community, One Event At A Time
The WAEC also provides new reasons for people to visit campus and experience Shenandoah from a community perspective. As a popular venue for social events, the space is open and spacious, but it can be curtained off and intimate, appearing elegant or casual, or fun or celebratory, depending on the situation.
2018 Apple Blossom Festival Destination
The WAEC bloomed as a fun dining, party, dancing and concert destination during the 2018 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, from May 2 through May 6, when events previously held at the Tolley Dental Tent at the Winchester Medical Center campus moved to the Tolley Dental Zone, located inside and immediately outside the the WAEC. Events hosted during “The Bloom” included:
- Valley Health Business at the Bloom
- Schenck Foods Bloomtown Derby: A Wine and Food Experience
- Caribbean Nights Dance Party
- Ferguson Bloomers’ Luncheon
- Jim Stutzman Chevrolet ’80s Dance Party
- MVB Bank Country Music Party
- Donegal Insurance Group Bluegrass Festival
A ‘Mindful Morning’ for Wellness
Seventy-five participants stretched their bodies and minds at yoga, Pilates and meditation classes on April 14, in a first-ever “Mindful Morning” event. Participants walked the new state-of-the-art track and mingled with vendors offering massages, energy therapy, and instruction for fitness classes and healthy eating.
‘An Evening Under the Stars’ Gala
On April 7, the center’s first major event, “An Evening Under the Stars,” transformed the WAEC into an elegant and sumptuous gala that attracted 500 guests from across the region and 235 students. Guests to this invitation-only event, including Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, were welcomed by spectacular dance and show-stopping cabaret performances, dined to world-class performances by the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra and Choirs, and danced the night away to high-energy jazz and Latin rhythms by an all-star lineup of some of the region’s finest musicians. By the end of the evening, the university announced it had raised $1 million for scholarships.
Our students are the central focus of Shenandoah, and we are grateful to donors who see why our students are worthy of their support. Our students are the central focus of Shenandoah, and we are grateful to donors who see why our students are worthy of their support.” —Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.
At the gala event, several students thanked donors for giving to scholarships.
“My mom has made a lot of sacrifices to help me to come here. Scholarships helped to take some of the burden off her shoulders.”
— Damon Mackin ’18 | Mass Communication
“Veterinary school costs a lot, so to have support with scholarships during my undergraduate years has been immensely helpful to my future career and the rest of my life.”
— Hidayah Jaka ’18 | Biology, Pre-Vet
“My parents didn’t have a college education…it became an important part of my life to pursue my studies, so I could have a better future.”
— Karen Cornejo-Guillen ’18 | Political Science, Spanish, & Global Studies
A Place for Commencement 2018
Another big dream for the center was to serve as a venue large enough to accommodate an indoor commencement ceremony. On May 12, that dream was realized when the university celebrated its 2018 Commencement in the WAEC with 223 August 2017 graduates, 322 December 2017 graduates, and 757 candidates for May degree conferrals, along with their families and friends.
Experience Commencement 2018
Fitzsimmons presented James R. Wilkins, Jr., a member of the board of trustees since 1990, with the President’s Medal for his service to the university. Wilkins and his family gave the lead gift to name the facility. “I’m humbled by the generosity of the Wilkins family, over many decades, which has significantly raised the university’s national profile,” said Fitzsimmons, who credits Wilkins’ commitment as a continuation of his family’s support of the university since Shenandoah’s move to Winchester in 1960.”
“Three generations of the Wilkins family have been involved here at Shenandoah for six decades,” she said. “We have all worked so hard and given to this building, but no one has done so more than Jimmy Wilkins and his family.”
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were also presented to Assistant Professor of Nursing Naomi Pitcock, D.N.P., RN, and to seniors Duasiané Benjamin ’18 and Karen Cornejo-Guillen ’18 during graduation weekend.
Trust in your your education and in the people who have sacrificed everything for you to be here today. It will always be a great day to be a Hornet!" — Arun "AT" Thottakara '18 | Student Government Association President