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$3 Million Grant from Eccles Foundation for Student Life Center Announced

Artist rendering of the new Student Life Center, view from the HPER complex looking east.

Sept. 11, 2012 – Early in Homecoming Week 2012, an announcement from University of Utah President David Pershing has already given students reason to celebrate.

This morning he kicked off the week’s activities with news of a $3 million “capstone” grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation for a much-anticipated new Student Life Center. The grant completes funding needed to begin construction on the center, slated to be a centerpiece of campus activity that will include state-of-the-art facilities for recreation, fitness and social activities. Ground-breaking is scheduled for spring 2013, with completion in time for the start of the U’s fall semester 2014.

The 172,000 square foot facility has been a priority of the Associated Students of the University of Utah leaders for more than five years, when they approved an increase in student fees in order to bond for the majority of the facility’s cost.  The Eccles Foundation grant provides significant momentum towards the $6 million private fundraising campaign for the project, which also includes an early leadership gift of $1 million from Kem Gardner and a $1 million pledge from the University Federal Credit Union.

Located just west of the George S. Eccles 2002 Legacy Bridge and adjacent to the Fort Douglas TRAX stop, the Student Life Center will create a more dynamic and engaged campus community for students living both on and off the campus.  The facility will be open year-round, seven days per week, 16 to 18 hours per day and will offer:

  • Five sport courts for intramurals and club sports
  • Indoor running track
  • Cardiovascular and weight training facilities and equipment
  • Aquatic center with a family pool
  • Climbing and bouldering walls
  • Racquetball courts
  • Wellness clinic
  • A café and study nooks located throughout the building

Also, the U’s Outdoor Recreation Program, Campus Recreation Services offices and intramural sports headquarters will all be relocated to the center.

According to President Pershing, “This is truly a landmark day on our campus. We couldn’t be more excited or more pleased for our students and the entire campus community, or more appreciative of the generosity of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and our other generous funding partners. The positive impact this center will make throughout the University cannot be overstated.”

Said Spencer F. Eccles, chairman and CEO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, “For us, the most compelling aspect of the center is that it’s been student-led from the very beginning. The students have been the ‘engine driving this project,’” he said, “and they have remained passionate, determined and unflinching in their commitment to its success.”

Added Eccles Foundation President Lisa Eccles, a member of the U’s Board of Trustees, “Our Foundation jumped on board with the students more than three years ago by providing the early funds needed to begin the center’s design and planning. Now – seeing how hard they have worked and how close they have come – we are thrilled to participate in an even more significant way so this project can move forward.”  She added, “We share their excitement about this incredible addition to our beloved alma mater. We certainly didn’t have anything like this when I was a student here!”

Former ASUU President Neela Pack, who ‘led the charge’ for the center during the 2011-’12 school year, said, “I am so excited about this gift. For over a decade now, the students have been working to achieve this goal and make this facility a reality. I am personally so grateful to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation directors for their generosity. This gift will touch thousands of students – current and future – and it is a reflection of the Eccles family’s commitment to our University and our student body.”

Elaborating on the benefits of such a facility, Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Snyder noted that colleges and universities across the country that have added similar centers have experienced “enormous benefits … backed up by hard data.”  She said the impact is seen not only in student recruitment and retention, but also in elevated student satisfaction and academic achievement.

No funds from the State of Utah will be used to build the $42.5 million center.  More than two-thirds of construction costs will come from student-approved bonding.

The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has been a visionary partner with the University of Utah for decades, beginning in the 1970s with George Eccles’ own chairmanship of and $1 million gift for the successful Medical Center Expansion Drive.  Said Pershing, “The personal generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Eccles during their lifetimes benefitted areas throughout the U campus, and we are honored that their legacy is carried on so generously by the Foundation’s board members today.”

In just the past 10 to12 years alone, grants to the U from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation have enriched facilities, academic programs, healthcare, scholarships and more throughout the campus. Among the Foundation’s most significant recent grants have been those for transformational needs in the U’s colleges, programs and projects including the Natural History Museum of Utah’s new Rio Tinto Center, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Red Butte Garden, the David Eccles School of Business, Rice-Eccles Stadium, Fort Douglas Heritage Commons, the Eccles Critical Care Pavilion at University Hospital, the Mario Capecchi Endowed Chairs, Eccles Early Assurance Scholarships, Athletics, KUED and the Department of Human Genetics, to name only a few.

The members of the Board of Directors of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation are all University of Utah alumni:  Spencer F. Eccles (BS ‘58), chairman & CEO;  Lisa Eccles (BA, ‘86), president & COO; and Robert M. Graham, (JD ‘60), secretary, treasurer and general counsel.


Among Utah’s largest and most longstanding charitable organizations, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation has contributed more than $400 million during the past two decades alone to benefit Utahns statewide. It supports projects and programs that have the potential to make a significant difference in bettering the quality of life of its citizens, carrying forth the philanthropic interests and goals of its founders through its grant-making programs focused in five areas: community, education, health care, arts & culture, and preservation & conservation. For more information, visit


The Student Life Center will soon be home to the U’s Campus Recreation Services, which currently facilitates more than 400,000 visits per year at Einar Nielsen Field House – the most utilized building on campus with the exception of the J. Willard Marriott Library and the A. Ray Olpin Union. Einar Nielsen Field House was built more than 70 years ago when the U’s student population was just 7,700.  Today’s U student body numbers more than 30,000 and the Field House alone serves up to 1,500 daily. The Outdoor Recreation Program, currently located in Fort Douglas, rents outdoor equipment and processes over 11,000 rental transactions annually. Last year, it organized Cooperative Adventure Trips for more than 1,000 students.


The University of Utah, located in Salt Lake City in the foothills of the Wasatch Range, is the flagship institution of higher learning in Utah. Founded in 1850, it serves more than 31,000 students from across the United States and the world. With more than 72 major subjects at the undergraduate level and more than 90 major fields of study at the graduate level, including law and medicine, the university prepares students to live and compete in the global workplace. Learn more about all the U has to offer online at