The Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 6, 1999
December 6, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 15


Alum Pledges $3 Million for Rec Center, Scholarships

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Houston investment executive Ralph S. O'Connor, a graduate of the university, has pledged $3 million to Johns Hopkins for student-related initiatives.

Of the total gift, $2.775 million will support construction of a student recreation center at Homewood. The remaining $225,000 will be added to the endowment of the Ralph S. O'Connor Scholarship, which he established in 1993 to assist undergraduates in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

The three-story addition to the White Athletic Center is intended for recreational use.

A 1951 biology graduate of Hopkins, O'Connor served on the board of trustees from 1969 to 1975 and in 1981 received the university President's Medal for exemplary service.

The focus in O'Connor's gift on student financial aid and on an important facilities project reflects two of the priorities in the remaining months of the Johns Hopkins Initiative, a campaign that was launched in 1994.

"Ralph O'Connor's magnificent gift will help bring the best students to Homewood and help provide them with a much-needed new recreation center," said President William R. Brody. "Future generations of undergraduates will be most grateful for his generosity."

A design is being finalized for the recreation center, expected to open in fall 2001. It will contain a field house with courts for basketball, volleyball and racquetball; an indoor track; a climbing wall; a fitness center; and flexible multipurpose spaces.

"To keep competitive, a school needs to have what the students want," O'Connor said of the recreation center. "Not everyone can play varsity sports, and this facility will provide superb space for intramural and informal competitions. Such activities make better students and better people."

Ralph O'Connor is chairman, chief executive officer and president of an investment firm that carries his name. From 1964 to 1987, he was president of Highland Resources. A veteran of the Army Air Force and a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program, O'Connor is known for civic, business and philanthropic endeavors. He has served as a director of the American Petroleum Institute, as chairman of the board of Oldfields School in Maryland and as a trustee of Rice University and of the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts.

He is a director of Highland Coors Distributing Co. and chairman of Skadium Enterprises Inc. He was among the original partners who acquired the NBA's San Diego Rockets and brought them to Houston to become the Houston Rockets.

O'Connor is chairman and president of the Marian and Speros Martel Foundation of Houston. He is also a member of the President's Circle of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. He is past president of the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen and a member of All-American Wildcatters.

The Johns Hopkins Initiative surpassed its expanded goal of $1.2 billion in May 1999, more than a year before its scheduled end. Total commitments as of Nov. 1 were $1.324 billion. Priorities from now until the end of the campaign in June 2000 include support for student aid, libraries and critical facilities.

Design for Recreation Center Approved--
Construction to Begin in Spring 2000

Put on those sweat pants and jogging sneakers--it's workout time. The board of trustees' Buildings and Grounds Committee recently approved a concept design plan for a 62,000-square-foot addition to the White Athletic Center on the Homewood campus.

The new three-story structure, which is intended for the recreational sport use of students, faculty and staff, will house a gymnasium with basketball courts and a perimeter jogging track; racquetball courts; a rock-climbing wall; a weight room; and both fitness training and aerobics areas. The addition, designed by Sasaki Associates, also will include administrative offices, a classroom and a multipurpose room.

Construction on the facility will begin in the spring of 2000 and is expected to be completed by the start of the fall 2001 semester. The work will coincide with the partial renovation of the existing athletic center's basement space, including new men's and women's locker rooms.

The cost is estimated at $7 to $12 million.