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Oct. 19, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Center dedication brings Smith 'home'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Robert M. Smith, president emeritus of Slippery Rock University, will return to campus Saturday to join in ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the $39 million student center named in his honor.

Offices and programs began moving into the 106,869-square-foot, three-story, open-space building in August, but it will be officially dedicated at 11:30 a.m. as part of the University's annual homecoming celebration.

Smith, who had served a decade as provost and vice president for academic affairs, and president, retired in February. He and his wife, Ramona, moved to Tennessee.

Smith was instrumental in forwarding and promoting student-initiated plans for the new student center that bears his name.

Among those who will participate in the ribbon cutting are current SRU President Cheryl Norton, Eric Holmes, chair of the SRU Council of Trustees and David Wolf, president of the University's Student Government Association and newly named member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors, Constance Foley, vice president for student life and Smith.

Mrs. Smith is also expected to attend.

"We are truly pleased that the Student Government Association recommended the building be named for President Smith," Norton said. "His campus and community leadership, and his diligent, untiring work in bringing this campus asset to fruition certainly make the case for naming it in his honor. As I learn more and more about Slippery Rock University, I learn how influential Dr. Smith was in creating a very strong living-and-learning environment for our students. His vision, leadership and commitment to students was incredible. He certainly left a rock solid foundation from which I can work to further build the University's future."

The new building houses the SGA Bookstore and a separate bookstore-operated Electronic Technology Center that sells electronics and technology; a Starbucks coffee shop; and the first-ever Quaker Steak & Lube restaurant on a college campus.

On the outside, the brick and glass structure welcomes visitors with a quiet, continuous- flow waterfall, while the interior includes a theater, with up to 250 retractable seats allowing the room to be used for productions, or conferences and demonstrations. A large ballroom, which can be used in its entirety or divided for smaller attendance events, is on the third floor. There is also a spacious, open-space ground-floor lobby.

Smaller conference or meeting rooms for student organizations as well as offices for

SGA, University Program Board, Greek Affairs, Black Action Society, Student Union for Multicultural Development, the LGBTQ Resource Room and the SRU Women's Center are located on the second floor.

"Nearly all of the students I have talked to call the building and its amenities 'Awesome,'" said Christopher Cole, director of the student center.

"We are seeing students spend a lot of time in the building. Most nights at midnight, when the dining area closes, we have to usher students out of the building. I have also seen a number of people from the community making use of Starbucks and the informal meeting spaces in the building."

The ballroom and theater, as well as meeting rooms are available for outside rental, Cole said. "We have already had a number of weddings in the ballroom and are taking reservations through next spring."

The building made use of Green construction practices throughout and includes a "Green Roof" growing plants on the flat exteriors.

Plans for the building were initially launched in 2004. Students voted twice in campuswide elections calling for creation of a new facility. Ground was formally broken as students, members of the SRU Council of Trustees, architects, contractors and administrators planted shovels Oct. 1, 2010, to begin construction.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.