On Monday, Iowa Western Community College marked the official opening of the Dr. John and Jean Marshall Wellness Center located on the southern edge of the college’s Council Bluffs campus.
“We’re really excited about the opportunities this is going to provide for our students,” IWCC President Dan Kinney said of the $15.2 million, 92,000-square-foot facility that was built with the help of a $2 million gift from the Marshalls.
The building includes an 80-yard turf field, gymnasium, batting cages, aerobics room, exercise machines and free weights.
Several years ago, Kinney said, Iowa Western began experiencing an increase in the number of students with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. To help address those issues, the college hired a part-time mental health therapist — a position that was quickly updated to a full-time employee.
Kinney noted that as the administration looked for other factors that could help address and alleviate the problem, he became aware of a study that demonstrated that physical activity helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.
“We decided we needed to provide a space where students could by physically active,” Kinney said.
Developed initially by Kinney and his staff, the proposal was taken to the college’s Board of Trustees.
“We helped follow the vision of Dr. Kinney,” said Brent Siegrist, current president of the Iowa Western Board of Trustees. “It’s going to be great for students.
Siegrist was quick to note — and rightfully so — that the wellness center will not only serve the initial purpose for which it was proposed but will soon be recognized as a positive recruiting tool in an increasingly health-conscious society.
Jaron Still, an Iowa Western student, cheerleader and resident assistant that spoke on behalf of IWCC’s student body, thanked the Marshalls for a facility “that provides numerous opportunities for so much growth,” a facility he termed “an amazing resource.” Still noted that in addition to providing a space where students can remain physically active year round, it provides job opportunities and experience for students.
In his comments, Marshall said when he asked Kinney how he and his wife could help the college in a meaningful way, Kinney suggested they help with the wellness center.
“It is an honor for both me and my wife, Jean, to be part of this,” Marshall said. “We are so honored to be asked to participate in this way. We thank the community for being supportive of it.”
The Marshall’s generous donation was more than a one-time contribution for what the couple considered a worthwhile cause. They have long been active in their support of Iowa Western. The couple was honored eight years ago in 2011 with the Investment in Excellence Award, the college’s highest honor.
Their involvement with the college’s Black Tie Harvest dates back to the inception of the annual fundraiser in 1999. They also created the annual Black Tie Patio Party and have hosted it at their home every year. Jean Marshall has worked with the VIP Board and Adult Learning Center, accruing more than 500 volunteer hours. John Marshall serves on the Iowa Western Foundation Board and the college’s Board of Trustees.
Former Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan, currently interim CEO of the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce, thanked the Marshalls for their generous contribution to a building that’s “going to be here for a long time.”
“This just makes our community much better when we all work together,” he added.
That should be a point of pride for current and future IWCC students as well as the community as a whole.