The Joseph L. and Marion M. Wesley Student Center Celebration Dinner was held April 26 to honor the transformational philanthropy of Joseph and Marion Wesley and their impact on the Williamson community.
The event, held in the Joseph L. and Marion M. Wesley Student Center, with a large audience of family and friends of the Wesleys, many supporters of Williamson, members of the board of trustees, and some Williamson employees, included remarks from President Michael Rounds, Board Chairman William Bonenberger 7W9, and a heartfelt thank you from Joseph Wesley.
Bonenberger said, “This is a special night for Williamson and for Joe and Marion Wesley. It is my privilege to welcome you tonight to celebrate the good work of Joe and Marion as evidenced by this magnificent multi-use facility that will forever be known as the Joseph L. and Marion M. Wesley Student Center.
“Tonight we are here to thank the Wesleys for their incredibly generous investment in our students, not just the ones on campus now, but also our future students and alumni who will benefit from the Wesley Center for generations to come. This building is already a game changer in the eyes of our Williamson students. It will dramatically improve the quality of their lives over their 1,000-day journey while they are students here.
“This building will provide them the chance to participate in virtually every athletic, social, club, and eSport activities that an 18 to 21-year-old can possibly think of. It will help strengthen and develop the bond they form with each other and the alumni as we now have a world-class facility for when they come back here. It also will make us look more attractive than we already do to those applicants who are considering attending Williamson.
Bonenberger said if you were to stop by the Wesley Center at 4:45 a.m. on any school day you would find 10-15 students waiting for the doors to open so they can come in and begin working out. And, at 9 p.m., you would find the doors closing and a different crew of students heading back to their dorms, tired, happy, hungry, and incredibly appreciative for the gift from the Wesleys.
He also read a letter congratulating Williamson for the addition of the Wesley Student Center to the campus and thanking the Wesleys for their generosity written by Michael Pompeo who served as the 70th U.S. secretary of state. It said Joe Wesley is the living embodiment of the trades represented at Williamson and an excellent example of patriotism, entrepreneurship, and generosity.
Bonenberger also thanked the sponsors of the evening: W.S. Cumby Construction of Springfield, Pa., Cavan Construction Co., Inc. of Aston, Pa., and Williamson’s board of trustees.
Rounds said, “The Wesleys are an inspiration to all of us. Joe was the kind of young man that Isaiah Williamson had in mind when he wrote the deed of trust for this school in 1888. Mr. Wesley overcame many obstacles in his life and ultimately obtained the American Dream.”
He said that Joe’s wisdom about success in life is to marry the right person. “He did that for sure. He and Marion are celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year.”
He went on to say, “Joe is a patriot and has told me he loves this country as much as he loves his family for the opportunities it provided him to succeed. He began serving his country as a Marine at the age of 17. Because he had gotten experience operating a crane at the age of 14, the Marines made him a heavy construction equipment operator and he rose through the ranks quickly. After his time in the Marines, he returned to Philadelphia to work in construction.
“In 1967, he and Marion mortgaged their house, purchased a crane, and started their own company, AmQuip, ‘The Crane People.’ It went on to become one of the largest crane rental companies in the world. In 2007, they sold the company and created the Joseph and Marion Wesley Family Foundation, concentrating on education.”
After learning of Williamson, Wesley visited several times and began supporting the school. “In 2020, he invited me and Chairman Bonenberger to breakfast and asked about our strategic plan. We told him that the last capital project left to accomplish was a recreational facility for our students to improve student life.”
At this point, Rounds announced that a short video would tell the rest of the story. The video explained that at that breakfast, he and Bonenberger told Wesley they envisioned the recreation center as a modest block building. Wesley said he wanted to construct a building that represented Williamson well and announced he was willing to give $20 million for the project. He ended up providing $21.5 million for the building, athletic field bleachers, improved field lighting, and some grounds work.
At the conclusion of the video, the Wesleys, Bonenberger, and Michael Piotrowicz, a trustee, went to the front of the room. At this point, Rounds said, “Joe and Marion, we can never thank you enough for what you have done for Williamson. God truly blessed us by bringing you to Williamson. As a token of our gratitude, we would like to present you with this small gift of a 3D model of the Wesley Student Center.” At that point, they removed the cloth that was covering a highly detailed model of the building.
Joseph Wesley said, “I’m a man of few words, but I am so proud of the organization that helps our country when we need it. American needs help now. This is what we felt our life is about – our country and family and friends. Our country today is under fire in a serious way and I want it to come out the right way. If we can give back to our country, I couldn’t find a better organization to get involved in than Williamson. Life has treated us very well and I feel I need to give back. Thank you very much.”
After Wesley’s thank yous, Arlene Snyder, vice president for institutional advancement, invited several members of the Wesley family to come up and receive some personal gifts as reminders of the Wesley Student Center and the evening’s program.
The evening began with a reception on the upper level of the center and then everyone went to the lower level basketball courts which had been set up for a banquet. Snyder invited Chaplain Mark Specht 7W7 to the podium for a meal blessing.