The gift that keeps on giving brought the University of Toledo's Savage Hall renovation project one step closer to reality yesterday.
Chuck and Jackie Sullivan's $5 million donation - the largest ever made to UT's athletic department - means the Rockets are entering a brave new world.
The Sullivans' unprecedented donation also indicates that UT's transformation under new president Dr. Lloyd Jacobs will promote athletics like never before.
Fittingly, athletics at UT will no longer be treated like an afterthought.
"I believe athletics are part of what make institutions great,'' said Jacobs, who officially replaced Dan Johnson on July 1. "I think it lifts people up. I think it gives them excitement, something to focus on, makes them care about a place. In that sense, I think athletics are synergistic to the academic mission of the institution.''
One of the first things Jacobs did upon taking office was
announce to the full board of trustees that UT's basketball teams will remain on campus, settling once and for all the great debate whether the Rockets should consider playing downtown.
Four days following Jacobs' no-nonsense announcement, UT officials held one of the most significant news conferences in school history to discuss plans for construction and additions to Savage Hall.
Of course, none of this would be possible without Chuck and Jackie Sullivan, who previously donated $1.2 million to renovate UT's track, tennis courts and soccer field, and have established two scholarship funds.
Without the Sullivans, who gave UT officials a "don't go or no dough'' ultimatium regarding a potential move downtown, Jacobs' words would ring hollow.
Without the Sullivans, talk about renovating Savage Hall would be just that, talk.
Without the Sullivans, Jacobs wouldn't go public, seeking
donations so soon after becoming UT's new president.
"Now's the time for others to follow in the footsteps of Chuck and Jackie Sullivan,'' Jacobs said. "This is a great model to follow.''
Following UT's new leader, the Sullivans said they believe in Jacobs.
Chuck: "I like him. We need to reverse the decline in enrollment, and I think he'll get people to do that. I think Dan Johnson did a wonderful job, but now there are different problems that require different solutions, and I think Dr. Jacobs is better equipped to do it. The academic world doesn't understand it at all. They'll have a committee and meet for six months. [Jacobs] will say, 'This is the way it's going to be.'●"
Jackie: "We feel like he is
going to be a very good decision-maker. We know that he likes athletics and is willing to look at athletics staying on campus. It seems like athletics are going to be respected more now than in the past. I feel like athletics help put your college on the map. I never heard of Gonzaga until they started to play [major-college basketball].''
Money begats more money. Armed with a $5 million windfall, athletic director Mike O'Brien can solicit additional donations with a new level of confidence.
"We needed something to really kick-start this [capital] campaign. Needless to say, $5 million has done that,'' said O'Brien, who indicated UT's fund-raising goal for Savage Hall renovations is $15 to $20 million.
"Now Rockets fans can see this isn't a study gathering dust. That's the importance of today. Everybody knows the friendship Chuck and Jackie have for this institution. But this is real - it's going to happen.''
Thanks to Chuck and Jackie Sullivan, the question is no longer if there will be a new-look Savage Hall, but when.