KOKOMO, Ind. —The students on Coach Bob Knight's Indiana University basketball teams learned to be mentally tough and to expect to win.
Ted Kitchel, who played on Knight's 1981 NCAA championship team, urged the 200 people packed into IU Kokomo's Alumni Hall Monday, October 8, to support the Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center, which he said would provide similar life lessons to all students, not just the athletes.
"I look forward to coming back and seeing this facility, and seeing it being used by students," he said. "In today's world, everyone is interested in what kind of shape you are in. It makes you a good example, and being fit makes you feel better about yourself. Your heart will be stronger, your mind will be stronger, and you will have a more positive outlook."
Kitchel, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, was the honored guest at IU Kokomo's Inspire Power campaign kick off, to raise $2 million for the wellness center, being constructed in the ground floor of the library.
Kitchel also shared stories about his days playing basketball for Lewis Cass High School and IU, calling those year "a special time."
Several students appealed to the audience, letting them know about their need and desire to have a wellness and fitness center on campus. Senior Jordan Ousley, who is student body vice president, said the Student Government Association has pledged $250,000 over five years to help fund the center.
"Student government is really excited about this," Ousley said. "We need a place to work out and get healthy. This center also will allow us to offer new degree programs in health-related fields, like athletic training. It will offer a learning experience and get us all healthier as a whole."
Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke thanked everyone who attended the evening for their support not only of the fitness facility, but of the campus. She said supporting IU Kokomo is also supporting the community, because 80 percent of the campus' graduates stay in the region, as its doctors, teachers, and business leaders.
"I need you to hold this institution in trust. I need you to support us," she said. "This center fills a need on our campus. It's a great way to draw students here, but it is more than that. It will make our campus feel like a home, a place for students to stay. It's part of what a complete IU education can be, because we are educating not just the mind, but the body as well."
Sciame-Giesecke also recognized the Cole family for their $1.25 million contribution to the center, which is the largest cash gift in IU Kokomo's history. The family includes Milt and Jean Cole, Keith and Carmella Cole, and Randy and Candy Cole.
Milt Cole said his family's goal is to use the resources that have blessed their family to help others.
"There are just too many people who have not had opportunities," he said. "We need to help them."
Jean Cole said she hopes their philanthropy inspires others to give as well.
"If you would have told me back in our early years that we would give this kind of money to higher education, I would not have believed you," she said. "Thank God Milt had a vision. Now it's time for us to step up to the plate and give back, because we have been given so much."
For more information about the Milt and Jean Cole Family Wellness and Fitness Center, the fundraising campaign and tax benefits of giving, go to http://www.iuk.edu/wellnessfitnesscenter or call the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs and Advancement, at 765-455-9485.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.