Sixty two years ago, one of the many dreams of Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles came to fruition when Read Hall was completed under the leadership of Florence M. Read, the College’s fourth president. “It marked the fulfillment of a dream seventy years old, because even Miss Giles held in her heart the vision of a place for health and recreation that should undergird the religious and academic teaching,” read a 1951 issue of the Spelman Messenger.
Like President Beverly Daniel Tatum, Read and her team understood the important role wellness played among the Spelman community. Dr. Charles C. Hawkins, director of health and physical education at West Virginia State College and panelist at the Read Hall dedication in 1951, said it was the responsibility of Spelman College’s physical education program, as in all other college programs, to develop fitness in young people.
Shirley Statom Henderson, C’52, former president of the Spelman Student Association, vividly remembers the opening of Read Hall. “This was the first time any new buildings, other than the new entrance gate, had been constructed on campus during our matriculation, so you can imagine our excitement around the new gym,” said Henderson.
“My fondest memory of the dedication ceremony was that I was seated next to and chatted with Dr. Benjamin E. Mays and the most exciting thing about the new gymnasium for most of us was that finally we could learn to swim.”
At the time Spelman was home to about 500 students. However, today with 2,100 students, Read Hall is no longer adequate to support the College’s present goals and programming. This month, Read Hall will go offline in preparation for its spring demolition. The new facility is scheduled to open spring 2015 with a number of new features, including a dedicated spin bike room and an assessment area for personal training.
The goal of the College is to construct a facility that meets the recreational, wellness and fitness needs of future students, faculty and staff. “The building program includes a gymnasium, pool, administrative offices, locker rooms, a classroom with a demonstration kitchen, three multipurpose rooms, a fitness area and a running track,” said Arthur E. Frazier III, director of Facilities Management and Services at Spelman College. “In compliance with College policy, the project will be designed and executed consistent with U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Silver Standards.”
While the new wellness facility is being constructed, the physical education, recreation and wellness program will relocate to the auditorium in the Johnnetta Betsch Cole Living Learning Center II. “Wellness will re-open in mid-January,” said Germaine McAuley, director of Physical Education, Recreation and Wellness. “Cardio equipment, some weight machines, free weights and group classes will be available. A complete schedule will be released the week of Jan. 6.”