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Published December 20, 2021

Members of the scarlet community celebrate the official opening of a crucial, academically focused facility.

A journey that began four years ago to encourage and empower student-athletes culminated in October, when a festive Homecoming crowd gathered for a reception and ribbon cutting at the Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center. Recently completed, this sleek, ultramodern facility merges studying, tutoring, advising, and fitness training services into a unified whole. The reception’s guests of honor were Gary RC’74 and Barbara DC’76 Rodkin, whose generosity and scarlet pride have long made an impact across the university.

Addressing an audience that included friends and family members of the Rodkins and other generous donors, Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway spoke about the core idea behind the creation of the center. “We are one of the great research universities,” said Holloway, “and we must produce student-athletes—I mean that very seriously.”

Holloway elaborated on that holistic principle, stressing the importance of a support system designed to benefit students in the long term. “When you have a place like this—when you have benefactors who are interested in all of your experiences, in your success on the athletic field and the classroom, and are excited about the future success you’re going to have because you developed all those critical thinking skills—you have something very special,” said Holloway.

Athletics Director Pat Hobbs hosted the gathering and described how, in 2017, he began talking informally with the Rodkins about the need for an academic success facility. Both Barbara and Gary—whose business career spanned top-level roles at ConAgra, PepsiCo, and other companies—have a robust history of supporting Rutgers causes. The Rodkins quickly grasped the importance of this one and agreed to champion it philanthropically.

Situated within a family of buildings that stand a football’s throw from SHI Stadium, the center supports the academic achievements of some 700 student-athletes. With interiors dedicated to an array of services, from individual tutoring to workshops and seminars, the impressive structure is also home to Rutgers’ soccer and lacrosse programs. It boasts training and equipment spaces, meeting rooms, administrative offices, and more.

Invited to the podium to share his thoughts, Gary Rodkin expressed the belief that “it really does take a village to do something like this. Barbara and I are very fortunate in our lives, and we strongly believe that we should share that good fortune and give back. One of the key places we decided on quite a while ago to make that happen was Rutgers.”

Speaking warmly about how he and Barbara met as students, Rodkin said that Rutgers “gave us our foundation, and we believe very strongly in the vision that Dr. Holloway has. We believe very strongly in Pat’s vision for bringing us up to Big Ten-level athletics with integrity. And we believe very strongly that we should do everything we can in the interests of helping Rutgers move forward in academics, in athletics, and in giving opportunities to all of our students.”

Perhaps the most deeply invested audience members were the dozens of Rutgers student-athletes who attended the celebration. Their gratitude toward the Rodkins and other committed Athletics donors found a voice in Rutgers field hockey goalkeeper Gianna Glatz SAS’21, who offered inspiring words to the crowd.

“Today marks a new era in Rutgers Athletics evolution,” said Glatz. “Gary and Barbara Rodkin have gifted us with a state-of-the-art facility that every single student-athlete at Rutgers has the chance to enjoy. We are not only competitors on the field, the court, the mats, the tracks. Scarlet Knights compete in the classroom. This is a facility where we have everything we need to succeed.”

Glatz’s words resonated throughout the center’s lobby. Although the journey to build and furnish a vital piece of infrastructure has ended, the stories of those who learn and train inside it are just beginning.

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