University of Toledo alumnus Chuck Sullivan and his wife, Jackie, longtime supporters of UT athletics, showed their loyalty and commitment to the university yesterday by agreeing to donate $6 million, $5 million which will be designated for renovations and planned additions to Savage Hall.
The donation by Mr. Sullivan, a 1959 UT College of Business graduate, is the largest single donation in the history of UT athletics. The university also will disperse $500,000 for the Charles A. Sullivan Scholarship Fund and $500,000 for the Patricia Ann Sullivan Alumni Honors Scholarship Fund.
The Sullivans' generosity toward the UT athletics department was motivated, in part, to put an end to any discussion about UT athletics, particularly men's and women's basketball, playing home games off-campus, possibly in a yet-to-be-de-termined sports arena in downtown Toledo.
"I wouldn't have given them anything," Mr. Sullivan said in response to being asked if he would have provided such financial support to UT athletics if future plans involved playing off-campus. "They wouldn't have gotten my money. This [Savage Hall] is a good building here. This building just needs some work. It doesn't need to be torn down."
Mrs. Sullivan backed making the donation, knowing it favors keeping the Rockets on campus in Savage Hall.
"I don't know if I can quantify it, but it was an important part of it," Mrs. Sullivan said of their decision to give the university the financial gift.
UT President Lloyd Jacobs considers the donation a major step forward for the Mid-American Conference university.
"I believe this constitutes an important landmark in the development of this university and the athletic programs for this institution, and I can't tell you how proud I am to be part of this today," Dr. Jacobs said.
Savage Hall's planned makeover will include luxury suites and a state-of-the-art video scoreboard and sound system. An indoor practice facility for basketball and football also are among the anticipated additions.
UT athletics director Mike O'Brien said his department initially contacted the Sullivans about seeking $5 million for the renovation plans only a couple of weeks ago.
"Obviously, their generosity isn't paralleled as far as UT Rockets athletics and we're very fortunate to have them involved in our program," Mr. O'Brien said.
UT men's basketball coach Stan Joplin and women's basketball coach Mark Ehlen look forward to seeing the improvements.
"I was here [as a player] when Savage Hall was built and it was a great shot in the arm for the program, and I think this will be a great shot in the arm for the program," said Mr. Joplin, a former UT standout in the 1970s.
Mr. Ehlen shared similar thoughts.
"This is more than just for basketball and for volleyball, but for concerts and for graduations," Mr. Ehlen said. "This should be the shining jewel of our university."
UT football coach Tom Amstutz believes his program will ultimately reap benefits from a long-awaited indoor practice field.
"I'm really excited about the indoor facility part because I've had my players go out in the snow and practice for bowl games for the last four years in a row," Mr. Amstutz said.
Mr. Sullivan is the retired chairman, CEO, and president of Interstate Bakeries Corp. He was Interstate's chairman from 1991 through September, 2003, and its CEO from March, 1989, through October, 2002.
He is credited with increasing the company's profitability but the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004. Interstate's executive board members were the subject of a class action securities lawsuit that was settled. Interstate Bakeries brands include Wonder Bread, Hostess Twinkies, and Ding-Dongs.
The Sullivans have donated more than $12 million to UT, including $1.2 million in 2003 that led to renovating the track, tennis courts, and soccer field.
Contact Donald Emmons