President Michael Rounds, in his welcoming remarks at the Joseph L. and Marion Mr. Wesley Student Center Ribbon Cutting ceremony recently, said “We are here to celebrate a once in a lifetime event in the 134 year history of Williamson College of the Trades, the ribbon cutting and official opening of the Joseph L. and Marion M. Wesley Student Center.”
Rounds, speaking in the student center gymnasium, said the roots for the building were in the 2016-2021 strategic plan that listed improving student life as a key priority. “Williamson is not a commuter campus. It is about being here in our community and doing everything together as classmates. The more time these young men spend on campus during their thousand-day journey, the stronger the bonds they build with their fellow students and the more likely they are to make good choices that allow them to complete their Williamson journey and graduate. Mr. Wesley realized that after multiple visits here starting in the fall of 2017.”
Rounds spoke of several ongoing efforts to expand student enrollment and said, “It is important to Joe and Marion that this student center not be something Williamson outgrows as we expand our enrollment. They wanted to make sure it would be the center of student life now and for the future. They challenged us to think about what we really wanted for our students and not just what we could get by with. They wanted to give the students a building they could be proud of.
“Joe and Marion were inspired to make this generous gift because they believe in the Williamson mission. They believe that you Williamson students will make a difference for our society and our country. That you are leaders of character and men of integrity. That you are patriots that recognize how blessed we all are to be Americans. That Williamson’s core values are the same ones that Joe and Marion Wesley used to guide their lives. We are fortunate that Williamson is a school they believe in and we are eternally grateful.”
With Rounds reading Wesley’s donor remarks, at his request because he was feeling too emotional to read them himself, he said, addressing the students, “You might be asking yourselves, ‘Why would I put this kind of investment in Williamson?’ The answer is simple, ‘I wanted to invest in you.’
“The Williamson community is made up of amazing students, faculty, and staff and it is my hope to be a part of building this community. I want to build a great place to strengthen this bond and help cultivate this brotherhood with a place to spend time with one another, a place to foster health and wellness, and invest in personal fitness and well being, a place of camaraderie. The Wesley Student Center is that place.
“When I look at you, the students of Williamson, I see excitement in your faces. I see good citizens, future business leaders, successful individuals, good future husbands and fathers, but, most importantly, I see true patriots.”
In his trustee remarks, William Bonenberger 7W9, board chairman, said “Take a look around this amazing facility. Just a few short years ago we could not imagine in our wildest dreams that we could find someone committed to helping us meet our mission by funding a project like this. That was before we met Joe and Marion Wesley.”
Bonenberger said over several years he and Rounds got to know the Wesleys on a personal level. They could see the values they have that allowed Joe, with less than a high school education, to build one of the largest crane companies in the country from scratch. “At Williamson, we live every single day by Mr. Wesley’s two sayings – ‘The harder you work, the luckier you’ll be’. And, ‘Persistence overcomes resistance’. Almost every student who has gone through Williamson understands those words. We know that whatever level of success each of us achieves in our lifetime will be the direct result of God’s grace and how hard we are willing to work for it.”
He said the origin of the new student center began several years ago when a long-serving trustee happened to be working with an attorney, who happened to work with the Wesleys, who happened to be looking for a mission that matched their personal values, like helping deserving young people, like all of you sitting here, have the opportunity of achieving the American dream. “All of these providential connections led to a meeting, which led to another meeting, which led to a meeting where Mr. Wesley told us that he believes so much in Williamson’s vision of having a place on campus where students can gather and build deeper relationships, he was going to commit $20 million [which later became $21.5 million when he added the money to cover the cost of new athletic field bleachers]. Although the money went into the building, the investment was in the students, not the structure.
“The Wesleys believe if you are going to do something, especially for an institution of learning, there is only one way to do it, a way that makes the school, the students, and the donor proud. Most of all, they believe in every student here now and each student who will come in future decades. He believes in your individual potential to become great Americans with a trade and core values and self-confidence and leadership traits you learned while here. They believe if a world-class facility like this one will improve the lives of our students while here and increase the probability of them graduating it will be worth the investment. I think he sees a little bit of himself in each one of you. When you go to bed tonight, say a prayer of thanks to God for bringing Joe and Marion Wesley into our lives.”
In his partner remarks, Michael Bonacci Jr. 9W8, the project superintendent from W.S. Cumby Construction, builders of the student center, said “Today would not be possible without the Wesley family. Mr. Wesley, when I look at you, I see a man who, when he was a boy, was probably no different than many of us and maybe similar to who Mr. Williamson saw on the streets when he decided to create Williamson College of the Trades. I also see a man who has worked hard to make his dreams come true. I see a man who married the right woman. Marion helped you become a better person in everything you do. I know that at the age of 29 you had a dream to move the world and make it a better place. You are indeed moving the world. I know Mr. Williamson is up on that hill looking down on you right now and he is saying ‘Well done.’ ”
Bonacci went on to say, “Everyone involved in this project from start to finish has put their heart and soul into it. Mr. Wesley set the tone the day of the groundbreaking when he started shoveling dirt and kept shoveling dirt after everyone else had stopped. In that moment, he showed me a sign of how he is as a person and what he expected out of others.”
In his alumni remarks, Kevin Hatch 0W8, board vice chairman, said “The Wesley Student Center was designed with input from alumni. We were asked ‘What would you have wanted when you were a student at Williamson?’ There were a lot of great conversations and our input was taken seriously. This center will provide students with a space to congregate, play pickup sports, and simply have someplace to go. This will ultimately make the brotherhood stronger and enhance the overall Williamson experience. It also will provide a tremendous resource for alumni to interact with students at events and activities.
“Joe and Marion Wesley and the Wesley family, on behalf of all current and future alumni, I cannot thank you enough for your contribution of the new beautiful student center. This building can be described in one word – wow!”
In his student remarks, Jason Minch 2W3, senior class president said, “On behalf of the student body, we thank you for this amazing building. The Class of 2W3 was a part of the groundbreaking ceremony. Now, as seniors, we will be able to spend the last leg of our Williamson journey enjoying the state-of-the-art workout equipment, intramural sports, eSports, and attend the career fair here.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Minch presented Joseph Wesley with a souvenir wooden box with a picture of the Wesley Student Center on the lid.
The ceremony concluded with the ribbon cutting by Joseph and Marion Wesley and President Michael Rounds holding the scissors, and William Bonenberger, Kevin Hatch, Mike Bonacci, Mark Specht, and Jason Minch.
Mark Specht 7W7, chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction.
Following the ceremony, everyone enjoyed touring the new student center.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Rounds recognized and thanked several people who worked on the construction of the student center: Bob Reid of Spiezle Architectural Group for designing the center; Mike Bonacci 9W8, project superintendent, and Bobby Jones 2W0, assistant superintendent, for W.S. Cumby Construction, builders of the student center [Cumby employs six Williamson alumni, four of whom worked on the student center]; Tim Brown, Williamson’s director of operations and Trevor Hopper and Corey Jackson 0W3, past directors of operations; Dr. Todd Zachary, provost; Jim Obermeier, Williamson trustee and president of CYMA Builders & Construction Managers; and Mike Mullin, a retired project manager who was sponsored by Obermeier.