It’s not every day that the U.S. Naval Academy adds a new building to the Yard. So it was with great anticipation that they dedicated the 25,000 square foot, $28 million Ron Terwilliger ’63 Center for Student-Athletes, an addition to Ricketts Hall, on September 11, 2021.
This exciting event was the culmination of the fundraising campaign dubbed “Called to Serve, Daring to Lead Campaign,” which concluded in June of 2021. Ron Terwilliger, USNA class of 1963, led the giving with his leadership gift of $15 million. A number of alumni, friends and Naval Academy classes helped donate the remaining $13 million. The addition was started in the spring of 2018 and completed in late 2020.
The building is spectacularly state-of-the-art. It features captivating exhibits and memorable homages to the Physical Mission at USNA, celebrating the power and success of USNA Athletics throughout its 175+ years. It’s also a highly effective recruitment tool for those considering attending USNA and playing varsity, club or intramural sports, as well as younger athletes attending the USNA camps, who dream of going to the Naval Academy some day.
Honoring the USNA Physical Mission
On the night before the dedication, attendees gathered to kick off the weekend with the Physical Mission Leadership Dinner, which recognized the highest level of leadership donors who supported the Naval Academy Athletic Association throughout the campaign; their donations to the Physical Mission help midshipmen student-athletes, coaches, and their teams. Then on Saturday morning, Naval Academy Superintendent VADM Sean Buck ’83, Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk, USNA Alumni Association & Foundation President and CEO Byron Marchant ’78 and USNA Athletic & Scholarship Programs Chairman RADM Tom Lynch ’64, formally dedicated the Ron Terwilliger ’63 Center for Student-Athletes—to the applause of more than 175 honored guests.
The center highlights the USNA pillar that every midshipman is a student-athlete. It explores what it means to be a midshipman, both past and present. It also honors the legends and distinguished graduates while inspiring those who visit to answer the question of “Who Will You Become?” by attending the Naval Academy. There is an exhibit that lets them put their face on an interactive digital Navy midshipmen and literally visualize themselves at the Naval Academy. USNA Athletic & Scholarships Program Chairman Lynch told the crowd, “They will say to themselves, ‘look who I can become.’ Because of this facility, there will be many aspiring prospective midshipmen who will step up and take on the challenge.”
Athletic Director Gladchuk also elaborated on the building’s purpose, “This building goes back to a vision we had many years ago, thinking about the importance of the Physical Mission and how we can accentuate the values that make the Physical Mission so much a part of the USNA mission at large. The goal of this facility is to convey the commitment to the Physical Mission in a tangible way. So much of our history, traditions and achievements are now on display. This building is a reminder of what the Physical Mission means to each alumnus and midshipman.”
The Physical Mission is central to the Naval Academy’s success. Superintendent Buck explained, “The Physical Mission inculcates our graduates with resilience, stamina, a whole lot of grit and most importantly, the will to win—an attribute that is absolutely essential to every successful warrior. The Terwilliger Center for Student-Athletes has truly captured the essence of this essential pillar of our mission statement and is going to serve as an inspiration to all the midshipmen that are presently here and the thousands that will walk the Yard and consider joining our fine Navy and Marine Corps team.”
The Journey to Now
It was a long walk to this moment. The seeds of the Terwilliger Center were planted almost 20 years ago when Terwilliger told Gladchuk about his desire to recognize the Physical Mission of the Naval Academy in a meaningful, tangible way. Terwilliger himself was an Academic All-American basketball player and All-East baseball player in his time at the Naval Academy. He and Gladchuk harbored a strong vision for a facility that would tell the Physical Mission story using artifacts, memorabilia and interactive video displays.
The Navy athletics department researched and compiled content for two years, calling on alumni for items they could display. You can see the center’s progression in this intriguing video. It was purposefully built at Ricketts Hall due to its location, and now commands a glass-walled panoramic view of the Severn River, as well as of the Naval Academy and downtown Annapolis, an impressive spot heighted by the soaring architecture. The Terwilliger Center moves everyone who visits, even those who use the space regularly.
A Tour de Force
As you enter the building, you’re immediately surprised to see a scaled version of a F/A-18 Hornet, or Blue Angel, in midair above you. Then you’ll ascend to the second floor, where a host of exhibits awaits. There are audio-visual exhibits personalized with innovative technology, including a fully immersive theater and many interactive screens that can be programmed for specific sports when the need arises. You can explore the following:
- Mascot Exhibit
- Hall of Champions Exhibit
- Army-Navy Exhibit
- Life of a Midshipman Exhibit
- Women in Navy Sports Exhibit
- Who Will You Become Exhibit
- Navy Legends Exhibit (USNA Class of 1965)
- Heisman Trophy Exhibit Honoring Joe Bellino (1960) and Roger Staubach (1963).
- Leaders Circle Exhibit: A stately circular room with bench seating where Naval Academy Distinguished Graduates come to life through videos and voice-overs.
- 180-degree IMAX theater that features a state-of-the-art surround sound system for watching game films, listening to speakers, hosting meetings or watching movies.
The building also features the Class of 1984 Team Meeting Room, the Ted Gurnee Executive Conference Room and the Class of 1972 Sports Performance and Rehabilitation Center at the back end, with best-in-class sports equipment that Navy’s certified athletic trainers use for rehab and recovery treatments. It’s an extraordinary space.
Let the Hair on the Back of Your Neck Stand Up
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it came out. It is truly a statement room,” Gladchuk said. “If the hair isn’t standing up on the back of your neck when you come out of that place something’s wrong with you.”
We are thrilled to have this one of a kind space on the Yard. Come visit USNA and see the Physical Mission come to glorious life. Every time you tour the Yard, you’re giving back to the midshipmen who give their all for our country through their physical, mental and moral strength.
We give every penny from your tour, shopping, dining and visiting right back to the Brigade. Come experience the wonder of the Terwilliger Center, and support the
midshipmen that push the limits of the Physical Mission every day.
Written by Bill the Goat | August 24, 2022