April 23, 2012 12:00AM
It’s no secret that Alan and Roberta Whetzel love Pittsburg State. Their gift of $1.2 million for a renovation of John Lance Arena on Tuesday was a concrete expression of their affection for their alma mater and a new generation of Gorillas.
The Whetzels joined university officials in the Wilkinson Alumni Center to announce the gift.
“By providing the leadership gift for this project, Alan and Roberta are helping us improve the collegiate experience for every student on our campus,” said Jim Johnson, director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Whetzels’ donation allows the university to move quickly ahead on the first phase of a multi-stage project to renovate the Weede Athletic Complex and create an indoor event center. In fact, Johnson pointed out, work is already underway in John Lance Arena, where the old wood floor has been removed and preparations are underway for the installation of a new wood surface.
Following PSU Commencement on May 12, work will begin to remove current seating and then install a new maple floor that will include three basketball playing courts and as many as seven volleyball courts for a total of 31,000 square feet of hardwood. New seating on the lower level will be installed to compliment existing mezzanine seating.
This work all will be completed for the start of the 2012-13 academic year and the 2012 volleyball season.
“It’s a bold plan that will allow us to enhance the athletic experience for our students, our fans and our community,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “It will allow us to remain competitive on a national level, and provides the foundation for future growth.”
Scott said the Whetzels’ PSU roots go deep.
“Alan and Roberta Whetzel have a deep love for each other and for Pittsburg State University,” Scott said. “They met on a Pitt State basketball trip in 1958 and have been together ever since. A two-time basketball letterman with the Gorillas, Alan played for and later coached with PSU’s hall-of-fame men’s basketball coach, John Lance. Roberta was a cheerleader, active on campus, and an ardent supporter of athletics.”
The Whetzels, who both majored in physical education, both earned bachelor of science degrees. After spending many years teaching and coaching, they founded Business Systems, Inc., an electronic business supply company based in Wichita.
“I learned the importance of teamwork, leadership and preparation,” Alan Whetzel said of his experience under coach Lance. “For Roberta and me, our lives really began at Pittsburg State University. We want to help students have the same wonderful type of experiences we had and have the tools that they need to be successful.”
Johnson said the Whetzels expressed a sincere desire to do something for students.
“When we first began speaking with Alan and Roberta about this project, they were clear about the fact that they wanted to give students the same opportunities they had during their time at Pittsburg State,” PSU athletic director Jim Johnson said. “Because they both have coaching experience, they understand the importance that athletics can have in a student’s life.
President Scott said the support of alumni and the community allows the university to turn much needed projects from ideas into real facilities that benefit thousands of students each year. He cited the Bryant Student Health Center, the Student Recreation Center and Carnie Smith Stadium as recent examples.
“Although we still have much work to do (to complete this project),” the president said, “It is important to recognize those who provide leadership for projects such as these, and to celebrate the milestones in our journey.”