Couple To Donate $3 Million To Ursinus For Field House

Posted: December 04, 1997

COLLEGEVILLE — Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis and his wife, Marilyn, a former state representative, have agreed to donate $3 million to Ursinus College for a new field house.

Marilyn Lewis is a member of the Ursinus board of directors, and Drew Lewis' sister, Floy Lewis Bakes, was a four-sport athlete at the private college, from which she graduated in 1949.

The Lewises, who now live in Perkiomenville, were out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment on their gift, which was announced last month. College spokeswoman Sally Widman speculated that the gift might be in memory of his sister.

``I think that's the implication,'' Widman said yesterday. ``I think they didn't want to go into a lot of specifics about it, but they're pleased to be giving the gift, and we're pleased to be getting it.''

The gift - the 127-year-old college's third-largest, according to Widman - will make a big dent in the estimated $7 million cost of the proposed field house, which the athletic department is hoping to open by the summer of 2000.

Drew Lewis, a native Philadelphian who retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Union Pacific last year, served as secretary of transportation in the Reagan administration. Long active in Republican causes, he made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1974.

Widman said that Marilyn Lewis frequented the campus, observing classes, attending college events, and asking students what they needed.``As a board member, she knows what the wish list is of what we need,'' Widman said.

While not in the league of the $30 million gift retired Merrill Lynch financier William Schreyer gave Pennsylvania State University in September, $3 million makes a big splash at the quiet 1,200-student, 160-acre liberal-arts college in suburban Collegeville, Montgomery County.

Ursinus athletic director Bill Akin said the current 25-year-old gym is booked solid.

``In the winter months, our gym is literally booked 6 a.m. to 12:30 at night,'' Akin said.

The 1972 federal guideline known as Title IX that mandated that sports programs for women and men be funded equally created a bigger demand for women's sports and women's locker-room space, Akin said.

``We have seven more women's teams than we did in 1972,'' Akin said. ``That's a major issue that we run into every single day.''

He envisions a six-lane, 200-meter competitive track enclosing three basketball courts, volleyball courts, and space for baseball batting practice and badminton. The field house, which would include nets to divide one sport from another during simultaneous practices, would contain few if any seats, Akin said.

A college planning committee is working on including Akin's requests and raising the balance of the money.

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