Alumnae Bulletin November 2008

Smart Women, Strong Women

Renovation and expansion of Bern Schwartz Gymnasium will link the main campus to Cambrian Row, and provide both new social space and improved sports facilities.

gym Still the "new gym" to those who remember swimming in what is now the Campus Center bookstore, Bern Schwartz Gymnasium is 25 years old and no longer meets the needs of Bryn Mawr's community.

On her first day of work, President of the College Jane McAuliffe, who rows and works out with a trainer at 6 a.m. twice a week, was delighted to find on her desk a $1 million pledge from Ruth Kaiser Nelson '58, who chaired the Challenging Women Campaign, to start a $16 million fundraising project. A renovation plan was developed in consultation with Buell Kratzer Powell, the architectural firm that designed Benham Gateway around the historic Frank Furness building.

A new building on the campus side of the existing gymnasium will house cardio and weight rooms. An ADA accessible connector will run through the gym's second floor, under the "saddle" roof, extending in bridges on either end to the new building and Cambrian Row. The connector will include space for casual meeting, food venues, and displays. Improvements to the existing gym will include new locker rooms, a juice bar, increased light and better ventilation, and flexible program spaces.

new gym
new gym
new gym
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A main design goal is to capture a sense of motion, playfulness, floating and fun—a building that is a product of our time yet evokes an airy 19th-century sports pavilion.

"Exercise has to draw you, not be something you're forced to do, but something that you incorporate into your life out of a sense of pleasure in the activity, whether that be a sport or using machines," said McAuliffe, who named the project ‘Smart Women, Strong Women.' "I think our national focus on health and wellness is an important one.We are struggling with an unprecedented rise in the rates of obesity, and finding this in ever younger children. The medical consequences of this are considerable, and they have lifelong effects."

Athletics Director Kathleen Tierney said,"When I see our windowless exercise room full of students on the ellipticals and treadmills, I think of how many more students we can support by providing a greater variety of programming in spaces that have more natural light and are suitable for the activity. Our students would love an opportunity to participate in yoga, pilates and a multitude of other life-long activities that energize the mind, body and spirit.

"Since Schwartz Gym was dedicated in 1983 there has been a revolution in the way women in particular value and pursue fitness and sports goals. Almost 50 percent of enrolling students in the class of 2012 participated in interscholastic sports. This statistic shows us that today's scholars understand the importance of engaging in an active lifestyle and are looking for a college nvironment that supports that philosophy.

"There is a wealth of evidence that regular exercise in general, and participation in athletics in particular, improves academic performance and has a profoundly positive effect on emotional well-being," said McAuliffe. "I very much believe in the Aristotelian principle of a sound mind in a sound body.' To my regret, I was not athletic as a high school or college student. Trinity College, too, had a swimming requirement; I think I barely passed it and probably postponed it until weeks or days before my commencement. But I've seen in the lives of my son and my three daughters how much more they have taken to heart the need to be physically active and how they have found ways to do so that are enjoyable: they have been focused on fitness from the time they were quite young. It was part of the culture of the schools in which they found themselves."

"We recruit and will continue to do so in a very competitive market, where some schools are going to great lengths to develop very elaborate athletic and fitness facilities. Bryn Mawr does not intend to do anything of that sort, but we want to make sure that our students are well served."

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