Grand Opening of the Arlen Specter US Squash

At the Specter Center launch, President Fry hailed the project as the culmination of an innovative, far-reaching, 10-year partnership with US Squash.

Good evening, everyone.

Congratulations to Soo, Ned, Kevin, Dent and the board and staff of US Squash.

For all of us at Drexel University, the opening of this stunning place — the new Arlen Specter US — Squash Center is a dream come true. It is also the culmination of an innovative, far-reaching, 10-year partnership with US Squash.

But we all know that dreams like this don’t happen overnight. We put in a great deal of work to get here, and there were many moments of truth.

We began this partnership by bringing the U.S. Open Championship to Drexel’s campus in 2011. And as each U.S. Open since then has been played at Drexel’s Kline & Specter Squash Center. And in the Daskalakis Athletic Center, we’ve realized that US Squash is a tremendous asset for Drexel and for Philadelphia — where it was founded in 1904.

The Open brings the excitement of a world-class athletic competition to our campus, and that, in turn, has helped to inspire the success of Drexel’s young varsity squash teams — players who have since established themselves as regulars in the upper echelon of the intercollegiate game under the leadership of our great head coach John White.

The Open also gives us a chance to showcase all that Philadelphia has to offer to visitors from across the country and around the world. And, the city and region derive substantial economic benefits from the Open.

At the same time, the U.S. Open has enabled us to live our values by advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. For instance, this competition paved the way in 2013 for parity in prize money between women and men players — the first major professional squash tournament to do so. We are especially proud that so many of the other top world sporting events followed the example set by the U.S. Open on gender equity.

But we wanted to aim even higher. So did US Squash. And so did Tracey and Shanin Specter.

We all didn’t just want to build a better home for professional players already at the top of their game. We also wanted the Specter Center to be a transformational catalyst for diversity and inclusion by embracing its community in a way that, perhaps, the game of squash had never done before.

So, we’re excited to help open the magnificent game of squash to everyone in our community.

With our great partners from Squash Smarts, we are running clinics to teach squash to Philadelphia schoolchildren, who will receive mentoring through the program and encouragement to consider squash as their sport — and perhaps even their ticket to college.

And we are offering free and reduced-cost memberships to the Specter Center.

In making Philadelphia the capital of American squash, the Specter Center will have significant economic and social impact. It will bring dozens of jobs and commercial opportunities to University City, where, as part of the federal Promise Zone, where we are helping build greater capacity through new community programs, improved public education and economic opportunity for the entire West Philadelphia community.

We thank Tracey and Shanin Specter for their incredible vision and generous leadership gift — the largest gift in the history of squash — which jump-started the ambitious project to transform this historic armory building into the gem that we behold today — the greatest squash facility in the world.

I also want to recognize the critical role the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has played — especially Gov. Tom Wolf and Randy Albright, who served as state Budget Secretary when this project first started.

In addition, I want to thank former Adjutant General Tony Carrelli and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Executive Deputy Secretary Marc Ferraro, and Lt. Col. Joseph Martinkis, who is commander of the 103rd  Brigade Engineer Battalion based here at the armory.

And, finally, our incredible team from Drexel: Professor Eric Zillmer, during his exceptional tenure as Athletics Director; Brian Keech and Dave Wilson in Government Relations; Lucy Kerman from University and Community Partnerships; Rebecca Lasher and Melissa Brown from the Office of General Counsel; Nancy Trainer from Facilities; Subir Sahu from Student Success; Don Liberati from Business Services; David Unruh from Institutional Advancement; Helen Bowman and Dave Rusenko from the Finance Office; and … Trustee Chair Rich Greenawalt, Vice Chair Stan Silverman and trustees Bob Buckley, Sibby Brasler, Karen Buchholz, George Krall and Chuck Pennoni — who are with us tonight.

They have all been terrific partners who embraced our shared vision and were steadfast in their support. This breathtaking transformation would not have been possible without their assistance throughout. 

We truly believe the Specter Center will live each and every day by its motto of ‘You Belong.’ And it will be a community center anchored in the values of access and inclusion.

That motto — and the spirit of civic engagement that it exemplifies — fits Drexel University to a ‘T.’ That’s why it’s so meaningful for us to partner with US Squash for the benefit of our University community, our neighborhood and all of Philadelphia.

Congratulations to everyone who helped make the dream of the Arlen Specter US Squash Center come true.

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