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News // February 19, 2021

Central’s Kuyper Gym Renovation Speeds Toward Completion

Pushing past a few complications inflicted by a week of sub-zero Iowa temperatures, work on the $3-million upper-level renovation to P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium is speeding towards an April completion.

It’s the third piece of the $18-million Forever Dutch® initiative for the building’s renovation and expansion.

According to Vice President for Advancement Sunny Eighmy, 2,712 Central alumni and friends provided support for the initiative, the most donors ever for a college project.

The second phase of the renovation, focused on the building’s lower level, was completed in the fall and with the announcement that the college completed fundraising for the Forever Dutch® initiative in November, construction crews rolled immediately into the third phase.

Major demolition work is completed with the exception of a couple more difficult areas to access, according to Director of Facilities Maintenance Craig Roose, who is helping oversee the renovation. Masons have a majority of the block reinstalled in the visitors’ locker rooms and have poured some floors in areas that had to be demolished. HVAC installers have ductwork roughed in and plumbers also made progress while waiting for some additional walls to be completed. Electricians installed conduits in walls. Framing work is largely completed with some sheetrock hung and a first coat of bright Central red paint already applied to some new offices.

Roose said masons have completed work in locker room wet areas, including showers, but need some additional flooring to be poured before beginning tiling. However, the masons did experience delays because mixing mortar outdoors was temporarily stymied by the polar vortex that wreaked havoc in the Midwest. There were also some delays in product shipment.

Still to be completed is a more visible aspect of the project, the installation of two additional windows adjacent to two existing windows that overlook the competition area of the gym. The windows will flank the west-side scoreboard, with one added to room 216, which is often used as a reception area for prospective students and other visitors as well as meetings. The other window will be part of a new video room that teams will utilize.

Roose said unlike many renovation projects, progress has not been hindered by unwelcome surprises.

“You never know what you’re going to find when you open things up, but we’re pleased with the project thus far,” he said.

In 2016, the descendants of Pella Corporation founder P.H. “Pete” Kuyper and their family foundations teamed for a $4.2-million lead gift for the complex that bears the family’s name. It’s among the largest gifts in Central’s history. The driving force behind the family gift was Kuyper’s daughter, M. Joan Farver, a former Pella Corporation chair and longtime Central trustee. Farver died in February 2017 at age 97. The new building entrance atrium was named in her honor.

Curt ’88 and Mary Holden Blythe ’90 also provided a powerful gift in the past year, with impactful contributions from several others.

Given the disruptions the pandemic already inflicted on athletics competition, reducing the number of events and limiting practice opportunities this year, the renovation work is probably well-timed, athletics director Eric Van Kley said. Nonetheless, student-athletes and staff members are eager to make use of the much-needed new spaces. A few staff members remain in P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, although in temporary locations, but a majority of the coaching and administrative staff have been scattered to spaces in Prins House, Peace Hall and the Helen Jean Hislop Center.

“Certainly there are some minor inconveniences that accompany construction work and for those of us still in Kuyper Gymnasium, there’s a little daily background noise but really, things have gone incredibly smoothly,” Van Kley said. “That’s a credit to some hard-working staff members who have carefully mapped out the necessary adjustments as well as plenty of patience and understanding from our student-athletes. Everyone understands that a few disruptions are well worth it. We’re all eager to see what the new spaces look like and tremendously excited to begin taking advantage of all they can offer.”

The project is about more than bricks and carpeted floors, he said.

“We’re proud of the Central athletics legacy,” Van Kley said. “And we’re proud that we’re making, not only P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, but the entire A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex a real showcase to better serve our more than 700 student-athletes. We are all so grateful to the many generous donors who made this possible.”

News // November 16, 2020

Central Finishes Fundraising for Forever Dutch Initiative

Declaring victory in the most ambitious athletics capital initiative in its 167-year history, Central College has completed fundraising for the $18 million Forever Dutch® initiative.

With the announcement, approval was received to proceed with the third phase of the renovation and expansion of P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.

Vice President for Advancement Sunny Gonzales Eighmy, Class of 1999, said 2,712 Central alumni and friends provided support for the project, the most donors ever for a college project.

“We are so grateful to all the alumni and friends of the college who have given thoughtfully and generously to help us finish this project for our students and coaches,” Eighmy said. “Time and time again, members of the Central family have demonstrated their unyielding support. We send our deepest thanks for their confidence in Central and belief in our mission. Through their generosity, we are able to optimize the Central student-athlete experience now and well into the future.”

The major Forever Dutch initiative construction started with a $12 million building expansion in 2017. The second $3 million phase for the lower level, which includes a new women’s varsity locker room and a transformed athletic training room, was recently completed. The college quickly transitioned to the third phase, providing a $3 million renovation for the building’s upper level featuring team meeting space, a new welcome center, recruitment space, offices and an updated visitor’s locker room, along with a Ron Schipper Fitness Center upgrade. Most of that work should be completed by April 2021.

“There’s tremendous excitement about this project with our student-athletes and coaches,” says Eric Van Kley, Central’s athletics director. “These facilities really make a statement about how committed the Central family is to investing in our students and in the future of this place. These are challenging times but we’ve not lost sight of providing for student needs that lie beyond the horizon.”

In 2016, the descendants of Pella Corporation founder P.H. “Pete” Kuyper and their family foundations teamed for a $4.2 million lead gift for the complex that bears the family’s name. It is among the largest gifts in Central’s history. The driving force behind the family gift was Kuyper’s daughter, M. Joan Farver, a former Pella Corporation chair and longtime Central trustee. Farver died in February 2017 at age 97. The new building entrance atrium was named in her honor.

Curt Blythe, Class of 1988, and Mary Holden Blythe, Class of 1990, also provided a powerful gift in the past year, with impactful contributions from several others.

The initiative was publicly announced in early 2016 but planning began much earlier, guided by the Forever Dutch steering committee with tri-chairs Pete Cartwright, Class of 1982, of Urbandale, Iowa; Dennis Hanson, Honorary Class of 2007, of Norwalk, Iowa; and Molly Parrott, Class of 2002, of Ames, Iowa.

Cartwright, a former Dutch football player who previously chaired the Finance Committee on Central’s Board of Trustees, says the need was obvious before the launch.

“I looked at the students and at the coaches and I just felt like this was really an important thing for us to do,” he says. “I’m thrilled we could do this and could do it without taking on any debt. It addresses a lot of needs.

“This took effort and giving from so many people and we really need to say thank you. Every gift, small and large, made a difference.”

Hanson and his wife, Kris, sent three daughters to Central, two of whom competed in women’s basketball. He’s grateful for the record number of donors Forever Dutch generated.

“I’m extremely happy about the people who came along here this last year and got us over the hump to get that third phase started,” he says. “The first-phase expansion looks great, and I can’t wait to see the next phases and how they all fit together. I think it’s going to be a big advantage for students in the years ahead.”

Parrott was an all-America honoree in both women’s basketball and softball but values the totality of her Central career.

“Central is committed to students and their on-campus experience,” she says. “That high-impact experience is what a lot of students want. It’s a holistic approach that means more than just playing a sport, it’s about developing as a person.”

The dramatic athletics facility upgrade can play a role in that.

“It’s not about having a shiny new building,” Parrott says. “It’s about the experience it enables the college to provide.”

Central has a prominent NCAA Division III athletics tradition. The Dutch have captured 11 national team championships in six sports and 36 individual NCAA crowns, with 82 top-10 NCAA team finishes and 26 NCAA postgraduate scholars.

PICTURED ABOVE: A corner of the expansive new Kuyper Gym women’s locker room.

News // October 7, 2020

Central Club Makes Major Gift for Forever Dutch®

One of Central College athletics’ most faithful partners is coming up big once again through a major gift to the Forever Dutch® initiative to renovate and expand P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.

The Central Club, among the nation’s oldest small-college booster organizations, has committed $150,000 to the next phase of the project. The gift is designated for new custom flooring and equipment for the Ron Schipper Fitness Center. The surface will be more forgiving, eliminating the raised four-inch platforms that engulf a large section of the facility.

“It will open up a lot more space in front of all those lifting racks that can be used for a warm-up area or for additional equipment,” strength and conditioning coordinator Kyle Johnson said. “It’s going to make our room bigger without moving out equipment.”

The surface provides other advantages as well.

“It’s antimicrobial and a lot easier to clean,” Johnson said. “It’s also more durable. It’s not going to show nicks and scrapes.”

The 7,200-square foot facility opened in 1999, named in honor of College Football Hall of Fame Coach Ron Schipper, who guided the Dutch from 1961-96.

“One of the things that really appealed to us about this project is that it’s something that will impact every Central College student-athlete,” said club president Mike Dahlhauser ’94. “We love supporting some of the individual sport projects, too, but this is something that will be used year-round. It’s a necessary project and one that fits very well into the mission of the Central Club.”

Since its organization in 1959, the Central Club has provided Dutch student-athletes with equipment and support that the college would not otherwise be able to obtain. More than 600 members annually support the Dutch, providing assistance for athletes in all 20 of Central’s varsity sports.

“What really makes the Central Club special is its focus on serving student-athletes,” said athletics director Eric Van Kley. “I think that makes it unique. This organization includes many of the college’s most passionate and faithful supporters. Year in and year out, the Central Club is there. It’s about more than the dollars they provide, it’s the commitment. Central Club members are all in. We’re extremely grateful for this gift, which is one of the largest in club history.”

The $18-million Forever Dutch® initiative launched with a $12-million building expansion in 2017. The second $3-million phase to the lower level, which includes a new women’s varsity locker room and a transformed athletic training room, is nearing completion and the college hopes to quickly transition to a $3-million third phase of the building’s upper level later this year.

It will feature team meeting space, a new welcome center, recruitment space, offices and an updated visitor’s locker room, along with the fitness center upgrade.

News // June 1, 2020

NBC’s Smith Helping Push Forever Dutch® Project to Finish Line

Long before Harry Smith ’73 and his Central College baseball cap became familiar breakfast companions to the nation’s television news viewers, his college athletics career had a less-glamorous launch.

When he enrolled at Central in the fall of 1969, basketball games were held in the old college gym, “that tiny, tiny little building,” Smith recalled. He and his football teammates showered in a makeshift locker room in the basement of the Cox-Snow Music Center, adjacent to old A.N. Kuyper Stadium, turf now occupied by the Kruidenier Center and the Vermeer Science Center.

More than 50 years later, Smith, an NBC News correspondent frequently featured on “Sunday TODAY,” needed little convincing in supporting Central’s Forever Dutch® initiative and the $18 million renovation/expansion of P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium, the building which opened at the start of his sophomore year.

Now a Central trustee, Smith and his wife, NBC sportscaster Andrea Joyce, have given more than $550,000 toward the initiative and are helping the college barrel towards the finish line of the $3-million phase to complete a transformation of the building’s upper level. It will feature team meeting space, a new welcome center, recruitment space, offices and a visitor locker room.

“Harry’s contributions to Central extend far beyond his significant financial support,” said Central president Mark Putnam. “As one of Central’s most visible graduates, he gives so much of himself on the college’s behalf. On countless occasions, he’s traveled to campus to emcee events, hosted visitors in New York City and spoken with current and prospective students, while also providing a wise and respected voice among our trustees. We’re deeply grateful for not only all Harry does, but for who he is.”

Crews are wrapping up a lower-level renovation of the 51-year-old gymnasium, launched Feb. 24.  The work includes the construction of an expansive women’s varsity locker room with a team meeting room, a reconfigured athletic training room that will provide more treatment space and an enlarged athletics equipment room. It is hoped that fund-raising efforts will allow construction workers to seamlessly transition to the next renovation phase later this fall.

The much-needed Kuyper Gymnasium facelift will be beneficial to Central’s talented students, Smith said, but also helps ensure there will be even more of them in the future. He recalls the fresh smell of the tartan-surfaced playing floor when Kuyper Gymnasium opened and the energy the facility generated for campus athletes. The current renovation is creating a similar buzz.

“I’ve given money to the college for lots of different efforts over the years,” Smith said. “But more than half of our students compete in sports and I just knew that upgrading these athletics facilities was important if we want to keep the great coaches we have and if we want to continue to attract the kind of young people who want to play and learn.”

Smith, a past commencement speaker, wants to see Central transform others’ lives as dramatically as it did his.

“I feel like I’ve led a very fortunate life, but I think perhaps the most fortunate thing that happened was making my decision to come to Central,” Smith said.

Smith passed up some scholarship offers for a Dutch football tradition that was already well-established under future College Football Hall of Fame coach Ron Schipper. But he gained more than aching muscles and Saturdays in shoulder pads.

“I came to Central College to play football for Ron Schipper, and that was the only thing I knew for sure,” Smith said. “But within minutes of my arrival time on campus, I realized the world was my oyster. The professors were fantastic. The personal attention was off the charts. And I went from a mediocre high school student to a hungry, insatiable college student.”

After graduation, Smith parlayed his eclectic resume of football, A Capella Choir, theater productions and Bette Brunsting-led speech classes into radio station gigs in Denver and Cincinnati.

“You know, you walk off campus and you have aspirations, but you don’t really know whether the preparation you’ve had is good enough,” Smith said. “And it didn’t take all that long for me to realize that I could follow my dreams. I had made the right choice. That I got to play football four years was huge. But that I also got to take classes from the range of professors who were there all those years ago and sing in the A Capella Choir and do everything else, that’s crazy.”

Smith later joined a CBS television affiliate in Denver, then was hired as a CBS News reporter based in Dallas. He served as co-host of “CBS This Morning” from 1987-96 and eventually as a contributor to the “CBS Evening News.”

When Smith made the leap to network television, where seemingly even the part-time clerical staff had master’s degrees and top-tier SAT scores, he wondered if he belonged.

“I was in an atmosphere where there were people who were Ivy League graduates and I wondered if I would stack up,” he said. “And you know what? I was just fine.”

Smith also hosted the A&E series “Biography” on the History Channel, then returned to CBS in 2002 to co-host “The Early Show” for eight years. He served as a senior correspondent and substitute news anchor before leaving in 2011. He became a correspondent for NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” that year, leading to his current role, which this summer has him crisscrossing the country in the pandemic-protected safety of an RV.

“They keep me crazy busy,” Smith said.

Few are as passionately forever Dutch as Smith, whose on-screen image often is proudly accented by a Central College softball t-shirt. His New York City office betrays even more overt evidence of media bias, with an oversized, white Central athletics “C” engulfing most of a brightly painted red wall.

Before the Internet age, spending fall Saturday afternoons chasing stories far from the land of George’s Pizza without knowing the Central football score left Smith too anxiety-ridden to wait until Sunday morning to learn the result by scouring the New York Times agate, so he’d call the campus switchboard operator on Saturday nights to see if she knew. She always did.

The engaging Emmy Award-winning journalist has traversed the globe, interviewing leaders like Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher as well as celebrities ranging from Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio and Usher to Bob Newhart and Madonna. He’s covered world-changing events like the Persian Gulf War, Hurricane Katrina and the shootings at Virginia Tech University. But to catch the ever-poised newsman finally overwhelmed by the moment, listen to the final seconds tick away in the Central football team’s come-from-behind 50-49 overtime victory at Whitworth College (Wash.) in 2016, when he joined KRLS Radio sportscaster Trevor Castle and color commentator Don De Waard ’82 in the booth. Smith is the one screaming, “Yessss! Yesss! Yesss!” after Kohle Helle ’19 dove across the goal-line for the do-or-die two-point conversion.

His interest in the Forever Dutch® initiative is off the charts as well. Smith confesses that when the college offered a live cam view of the construction of the building’s expansion during 2016-17, he was borderline obsessive about monitoring its progress, checking in every day.

It’s all because of the discovery he made 50 years ago of the dynamic little campus in the gently rolling fields of central Iowa and the opportunities it unleashed. It’s a story he’s bursting to share with others.

“It’s interesting as you meet people and they went to this school or they went to that school, and I talked to them about, well, one spring semester a bunch of us slept in a storefront church in Chicago for 10 days,” Smith said. “And I got to do this and I got to do that. You know, I even acted in a play for crying out loud.

“For me, Central was a place I could flourish. As I look back at the range of choices I had, and the crazy, wild array of stuff I got to do, I can’t imagine that I’d be where I am today had I gone anyplace else.”

News // June 1, 2020

Major Gift Propels Forever Dutch Project at Central

With a powerful closing kick, Central College is streaking to the finish line of the next $3 million phase of the Forever Dutch® initiative.

Fueling the surge to complete the $18 million expansion and renovation of P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium is one of the initiative’s most impactful gifts, a major donation from Curt ’88 and Mary Holden Blythe ’90 of Williamsburg, Iowa, that puts the college within striking distance of the goal.

“This is a transformative gift and we are profoundly grateful,” said Central President Mark Putnam. “But the Blythe family’s multi-generational contributions to Central College extend far beyond financial support. In evolving roles as Central students, athletes, alumni and parents, they have made a substantive difference in the life of this institution.

“Their remarkable generosity is exceeded only by their passion for providing for others. They are fervently committed to ensuring that future students benefit from the Central experience as richly and broadly as they have.”

Beyond helping students, the Blythes sought to recognize those who served Central years ago as well as those who do so now.

“It’s about the relationships,” Curt Blythe said. “When you’re a 17- or 18-year-old kid and you go to a place like Central, you really don’t know what to expect. But a lot of that becomes clear down the road as you mature and gain perspective on how much the people there have impacted your life. And for Mary and me, that’s truly the case. There are so many great people that make Central College what it is. We’re in a blessed position to be able to do this and it’s just a reflection on how we feel about the people we’ve known in the past and those currently on campus.

“We just felt like it was the right thing to do.”

While downplaying their own contributions, the Blythes are pushing other alumni and college friends to take the extra steps needed to reach the goal. A $3 million renovation to P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium’s first floor is speeding toward an Aug. 3 completion. Curt Blythe said he is eager to see work swiftly ensue on the next $3 million phase, which will bring new life to the building’s second floor.

“I encourage others to seriously consider making a gift to the Forever Dutch initiative and complete this project,” he said. “They should reflect on the impact Central College has made in each graduate’s life or in their family’s lives. We want to continue creating an environment where future generations can experience that same kind of impact.”

The lower-level renovation to the 51-year-old gymnasium launched Feb. 24. The work includes construction of a spacious women’s varsity locker room with a team meeting room, a reconfigured athletic training room that will provide more treatment space and an expanded athletics equipment room.

The anticipated second-floor renovation will feature team meeting space, a new welcome center, recruitment space, offices and visitor locker room.

The gift extends a legacy of generosity for the Blythes, whose family connections to Central run similarly deep. Curt and his brothers, Jeff ’86 and Matt ’93, graduated from Central. Curt and Mary are also Central parents, as sons Trenton ’08Holden ’12 and Corbin ’17 are alumni.

Even son Austin, the lone family member who didn’t attend Central, maintains close ties. Now a Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman, he played football at the University of Iowa and was also a three-time state championship wrestler at Williamsburg High School. He was introduced to Central athletics director and wrestling coach Eric Van Kley while still in high school and both were involved in national amateur wrestling tournaments.

“He and Austin have developed a really nice relationship, so Central College has impacted everybody in our immediate family and beyond,” Curt Blythe said.

Van Kley described the Blythes’ generosity as game-changing.

“Their gift and the gifts of hundreds of others will help provide life-impacting opportunities for Central student-athletes for years to come,” he said. “But even more, as I’ve grown connections with our alumni wrestlers and other former athletes, I appreciate the friendship that I’ve developed with Curt and Mary and knowing that I can always count on them for support and guidance. One of the things that impresses me about them is that they have no interest in personal recognition but have an understanding of the impact that they can make and a desire that their support will motivate others.”

Curt Blythe was a member of four conference championship and NCAA Division III playoff football teams as an offensive and defensive lineman at Central and was also a heavyweight on the Dutch wrestling team, which won a pair of league titles during his four years. He was a three-time letter winner in football and received the Wendt Award in 1987 as the team’s top offensive lineman. He lettered twice in wrestling and served as a team co-captain.

Trenton lettered three times as a defensive stinger, Holden was a four-year letter winner as a defensive end and Corbin lettered three times as a defensive lineman after transferring to Central. Corbin was a two-time first-team all-conference pick and served as a Dutch co-captain. All three earned academic all-conference distinction.

Faces have changed but as parents, Curt and Mary Blythe observed the same kind of lasting relationships they developed at Central are impacting the lives of the college’s students today. That’s among the many constants they see.

“I think it’s a rock-solid environment that you trust,” he said. “I’m sure my parents felt the same when Jeff and I went off to Central in the mid-80s. You know you trust the people who are there. That was no different then as it is now, both academically and athletically. There are certainly peaks and valleys just like in any other part of life, but I think what endures is the trust you have in Central College and the integrity of its leaders.

“I just really appreciate the culture and the environment that the leadership has tried to create at Central and has enhanced throughout the years.”

While Curt values the education and experience Central provided, perhaps even more he cherishes the friendships that were generated there. He cited past and present faculty members and coaches, including his football coach, AFCA Hall of Famer Ron Schipper, as well as staff members like retired vice president for advancement Dave Sutphen ’61 and his wife Ardie Pals Sutphen ’64, who remain in close contact. And teammates became lifelong friends.

“Probably the best memories are the relationships I had with guys I competed with, in my case, both wrestling and football,” he said.

Enabling others to develop those same life-defining connections is ultimately what fuels the Blythes’ stewardship.

“I think Central College is doing a lot of really good things,” he said. “And our family wants to see Central continue to be successful long into the future.”