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winter 2018
Wofford Volleyball in new stadium

Game-changing giving

Opening the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts and the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium.

I was wandering the cart paths of Cheraw State Park’s golf course — wearing a Wofford cap, of course — when another junior golf parent-spectator stopped me.

He pointed at my head. “Are you a Wofford graduate?”

I smiled. “I am.” We exchanged handshakes and names. 

“Wofford’s really on the move right now. I wish my alma mater had a Jerry Richardson. Those two new buildings he just gave you are game changers.”

As we watched our sons finish the tournament, we talked about Wofford. Looking back, I probably should be a bit embarrassed by how I gushed about the new Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts — the creative spaces that will help prepare Wofford graduates for their futures, the gorgeous Chihuly sculptures, the incredible exhibits we’ve already enjoyed. I told him that I was looking forward to “Antigone” the next weekend, the first Wofford Theatre production in the new Jerome Johnson Richardson Theatre. Then we moved on to the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium and the Nov. 10 men’s basketball home opener versus the University of South Carolina. “There’s not a bad seat in the house,” I said. He asked about tickets, and I explained that they were sold out.

That conversation has stuck with me, especially the part that made me take another look at how lucky Wofford College is to have Jerry Richardson on our team.

Since he announced the gifts in the fall of 2014, Wofford has aptly used the words “transformational” and “game-changing” to describe the impact of the two new buildings. And they’re certainly proving to be just that:

  • Both the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium and the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts already have made a difference in the admission and recruiting process.
  • The new buildings also advance faculty and staff recruitment and retention.
  • The campus is more beautiful than ever before.
  • Wofford now can bring art exhibits to the college that require security and climate control.
  • The college will be able to show a new level of sportsmanship and style to visiting teams and fans.
  • The college has increased course offerings in the arts to meet increased demand, and classes for the spring semester quickly filled to capacity during registration.
  • We now have appropriate storage and display space for the college’s permanent collection and an elegant place to thank the people who have contributed to that important resource.
  • These new facilities also will affect student success, graduate preparation, national rankings and community support in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Before the buildings, however, came two gifts — timed perfectly to ignite the strategic vision — that continue to spark flames of generosity.

According to President Nayef Samhat, “After Mr. Richardson’s momentous announcements came a strategic enrollment plan to boost the college’s profile. Completion of the Stewart H. Johnson Greek Village soon followed. We are enjoying a wave of new endowment support thanks to the Trustee Matching Fund, and we now have an academic exchange with the renovation of the Michael S. Brown Village Center and the relocation of the Office of International Programs and the Center for Community-Based Learning near The Space in the Mungo Center. We have expanded living-learning communities and new programs that are contributing to a pipeline of student success. We’re also working with dozens of new donors on dozens of new scholarships, professorships, programs and building renovations thanks to the example of Jerry Richardson.”

Thousands of articles have been written about philanthropy in higher education. What makes alumni give? How does a college cultivate a culture of philanthropy? How do colleges and universities make a case for annual giving during a capital campaign? The truth is, giving remains a mystery, but not when it comes to Jerry Richardson.

He has been forthcoming with why he chose Wofford, why he credits Wofford as a foundation for his success and why he considers giving back the right thing to do. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s Mr. Wofford,” says President Emeritus Joe Lesesne of Richardson’s unfailing support.

Jerry Richardson gives, and he inspires giving. How appropriate that the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson Center for the Arts and the Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium stand as reminders of how one person’s loyalty, love and generosity have made the world a better place, starting right here at Wofford College. 

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89