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Penn State DuBois Celebrates Grand Opening of the Newly Renovated Paw Center

DUBOIS, Pa. – Penn State DuBois celebrated the opening of the Physical fitness, Athletics, and Wellness (PAW) Center on November 1.

(Photo: The Penn State DuBois PAW Center ribbon cutting was held on November 1; pictured are Roger Thies, Rebecca Pennington, Donna Kohlhepp, Dan Kohlhepp, Joyce Fairman, Chris Beretsel, Jungwoo Ryoo, Charles Snapp, Kelly Austin, Scott McBride, John Luchini and Bill Sitzabee. Photo by Kirkland Photography.)

Campus and University leaders were in attendance, including Penn State DuBois Chancellor Jungwoo Ryoo; Kelly Austin, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses; Bill Sitzabee, vice president of facilities management and planning and chief facilities officer; Mike Sgriccia, project executive for Alexander Building Construction; and Rebecca Pennington, director of student affairs.

The PAW Center’s opening is the culmination of a long-held vision to update the multi-purpose building, which opened for use in 1967. Discussions began in 2017 around the much-needed renovation project and in 2019, Kimmel Bogrett, approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees as the architect.

Like many other things during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, this highly anticipated renovation was put on hold.

Through the persistent efforts of campus leadership, retired Chancellor, M. Scott McBride and retired Director of Business and Finance, John Luchini, along with the Office of Physical Plant, and the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, this transformational project was approved to begin construction by the Board of Trustees in July 2021.

“We are so grateful for everyone’s efforts in getting this project going and seeing it through to completion. Wellness is a top priority at our campus and having such a beautiful new facility, right here at Penn State DuBois, is already providing such a positive impact on our students, community, faculty and staff,” said Ryoo.

The project team began construction in August 2021, and despite supply chain issues, successfully completed the new PAW Center for the fall 2022 semester.

Kelly Austin, vice president for commonwealth campuses, said, “Penn State DuBois is helping to lead the charge with state-of-the-art facilities like the PAW Center, which will further excellence in athletics, health and recreation. In doing so, it represents a giant step forward in our efforts to realize a more integrated and better resourced Penn State experience.”

Larissa James-LaBranche, a senior business major and student athlete said, “During the renovations, the campus really showed how committed they are to us as students and student athletes by providing us with an alternative place to work out and coordinating places for our teams to practice and play. We truly appreciate all the effort they put into making sure we were taken care of.”

Penn State DuBois donors were recognized for their contributions to fund the PAW Center, with spaces named for each in the building, including areas honoring Christine M. Beretsel ‘86; Fairman Family Foundation; Robert G. Johnson ‘71 and Janine Fennel Johnson; Daniel B. Kohlhepp ’69, ’71 and Donna S. Kohlhepp; support by Penn State DuBois students, who chose to contribute funds from the student- initiated fee; and Charles E. Snapp, for whom the gymnasium is now named.

Mr. Charles E. Snapp ‘63 provided the lead gift, and he said that this project was very close to his heart.

“My involvement in athletics, especially basketball, made the opportunity to support the PAW Center an easy one to make. The experience of being the student manager of the PSU – DuBois basketball team back in my college days played a big, big role in me doing what I could to make the PAW Center a reality.”

Louise Bennett, president of the Penn State DuBois Student Government Association, said, “Our students wanted to renovate the Multi-purpose Building, and we did not simply talk the talk, we walked the walk. Our students put half a million dollars of facility fee funds toward the PAW Center because this project was of utmost importance to us.”

The PAW Center was designed as a space not only for athletics but also for wellness, community, and gathering. The facility is home to an athletics suite, gymnasium, nursing and doctor offices, state-of-the-art fitness center, gaming lounges, and a multi-purpose room used for fitness, meditation, and educational classes.

“While our student athletes are proud to be part of a team on this campus with this new space, this building is about more than just student athletics. It’s about gathering, wellness, and making a connection to the University. We are seeing this happen every single day in this new space,” said Rebecca Pennington, director of student affairs.