On a crisp autumn morning, an exuberant pre-K to 12 Penn Charter community marked the next step in our campus transformation with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the William A. Graham IV OPC ’58 Athletics and Wellness Center.
Students from every grade, many dressed in spirited blue and yellow, poured onto the old baseball field for the Oct. 4 groundbreaking of the Athletics and Wellness Center as the Upper School band played “Gonna Fly Now,” the Rocky theme song. Greeted by the costumed Quaker (senior Vanessa Ewing), they filed into 1,280 chairs set up for the occasion, and even those in the back had a great view of an enormous 14 x 18-foot screen set up to broadcast the event.
“Today we are gathered on the very site of the new building that will begin a new era in the history of the campus, the Athletics and Wellness Center,” said Clerk of Overseers Jeff Reinhold. He welcomed the crowd, which included faculty, staff and administrators, as well as some parents and alumni. “Competitive athletics teach lessons about teamwork, communication and tenacity that you will carry with you throughout life. Wellness—physical and emotional wellbeing—shapes our lives in ways that are profound.”
For the first time, the PC community was able to see a virtual tour of the building—a video created by architects to show a “walkabout” of the Athletics and Wellness Center, inside and out.
“What an exciting building we have planned for you!” exclaimed Head of School Darryl J. Ford before announcing the naming of the building for Bill Graham, a longtime friend and supporter of Penn Charter and, more recently, of the How Far? capital campaign.
The Class of 1958 is tight-knit, and several of Graham’s high school friends attended the ceremonial groundbreaking for the building named for him.
“We had great teachers, coaches, leaders among the faculty and administration,” Graham reflected with fondness when Ford invited him to the mic. “I really admired [former headmaster] Dr. Gummere . . . even though I was afraid of him.”
Construction of the center will take about 14 months, Ford said, and will be followed by construction of a new lower school.
“Friends, this building is for all of you, our students,” Ford told the audience. “The Athletics and Wellness Center is part of our master plan and our vision to make this school the best place for you to learn, compete and attend to your physical and mental wellbeing.”
Every eye was on the jumbo screen when Ford introduced “Pass the Shovel,” a video, set to music, that featured a bright, shiny shovel popping up with groups of students all over campus. On the playground, younger students “flossed” with it, cross country and track runners passed it like a baton, soccer and field hockey players scored with it, band kept the beat with it, and the Outdoor Education class paddled a canoe with it.
And then it was time to pass the actual shovel for the groundbreaking! Down two lines of seniors it went, from the back of the center aisle to the podium, where Graham, Reinhold, Ford and a handful of students dug shovels into the site of the future William A. Graham IV OPC ’58 Athletics and Wellness Center.
“Penn Charter, what a great, great day!” Ford said just before an airplane flew overhead trailing a banner that read: PC How Far?