Local

Winthrop dedicates health, phys ed center

Rock climbers demonstrate their skill Friday on the climbing wall at Winthrop University's Lois Rhame West Health, Physical Education and Wellness Center.
Rock climbers demonstrate their skill Friday on the climbing wall at Winthrop University's Lois Rhame West Health, Physical Education and Wellness Center.

More than 200 people gathered in the gym of Winthrop University's new Lois Rhame West Health, Physical Education and Wellness Center on Friday to dedicate the building.

The 135,000-square-foot facility boasts athletic and classroom space, including a climbing wall, a pool and basketball and racquetball courts.

The event gave friends, colleagues and former classmates the chance to reunite with West and to honor her accomplishments.

Herald reporter Jessica Schonberg sat down with West, the building's namesake, before the ceremony. Here's what she had to say:

Q: Was this your first visit to the West Center?

A: "Yes. I think it's gorgeous."

Q: What are some of your favorite memories from Winthrop?

A: "My friends. ... We used to hike out to the farm and get ice cream."

Q: What has changed since your time here?

A: "Kids that come in now have so many more career choices. The opportunities are endless for them. Back in 1943, you could go into nursing, medicine, teaching and maybe a few other jobs. There weren't a lot of opportunities for girls at that time."

Q: You were a pioneer of sorts as the first woman to return to Winthrop after getting married and the first female president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. What advice can you give women interested in becoming leaders?

A: "Be yourself."

Q: How did that help you achieve your goals?

A: "Things just happened to me. I didn't set out to do any of the things that happened to me."

Q: What do you see as your biggest accomplishment?

A: "Raising a family."

Q: I know you have always been an advocate for physical education. What do you think about the state of physical education in schools today?

A: "They're getting more than they did when I was there. When I was a kid coming up, we got a recess and that was it."

Q: You've spent a lot of time in the public eye. What was it like living in the spotlight?

A: "I really wasn't in the spotlight that much. You do what comes to you. The Lord doesn't give you more than you can handle."

-- Jessica Schonberg

Lois Rhame West is a 1943 graduate of Winthrop. In her time at Winthrop, she played field hockey, tennis and golf.

She was the first student to return to school and graduate after getting married and later became an advocate for making Winthrop a co-ed institution.

West is the widow of the late S.C. Gov. John West. As first lady, she was an advocate for physical education.

She promoted the acceptance of women in leadership roles in Saudi Arabia while her husband served as the U.S. ambassador there. She was the first female president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and served as co-chairwoman of Winthrop's first capital campaign, which generated more than $30 million.

West lives in Hilton Head with her daughter.

  Comments