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Student Center and New Stadium Formally Dedicated

Published: December 01, 2002
Reprinted from the December, 2002 Alumni Journal

December, 2002--The University of Tampa turned Friday, Oct. 4, into “Dedication Day” with the official christening of two major new structures.


First, the University cut the ribbon on its new $38-million campus center complex, the nine-story, 245, 585-square-foot Vaughn Center, at 4 p.m.  Members of the public and local dignitaries attended the ceremony and the receptions and tours that followed.


“It became obvious that what we needed to do here was to make sure that this university did go to the top,” said major donor John H. Sykes, making reference to the name of the University’s capital campaign.  “No great city is without a great university in its midst.  I’d have to say that I moved to a great city in 1993—Tampa, FL—and was given the opportunity to become a part of this great institution.”


It was Sykes who put up $28 million to build the Center, with the stipulation, he said, that it be named for President Vaughn.  His introduction of Vaughn resulted in a 24-second standing ovation from the crowd, which filled the Vaughn Center lobby to a tight capacity.


“I’ve often said that no great individual or organizational achievement happens without the help of many others,” Vaughn said.  “It’s obvious from this roomful of people today who have helped us in one way or another.”  He then acknowledged the contributions of the various major donors, including the mysterious “three Tampa boys who want to take UT to the top,” with a promise that “their identities will be made known at a later date.”


Rick and Sandy Thomas, John and Susan Sykes, capital campaign co-chairs Al and Beverly Austin, and other major capital campaign participants were seated next to the podium.  Former governor Bob Martinez was among the notable dignitaries attending the event.

The Vaughn Center was underwritten by the gifts of John and Susan Sykes, Allen and Vivian Reeves, the McNichols Co. and family, First Union Bank, Wachovia Bank, anonymous donors, the UT classes of 1998, 2000 and 2001, and several gifts-in-kind.


Following the president’s comments, he and several of his guests cut a ribbon at the foot of the stairs, declaring the building officially dedicated, and led a large procession up the stairs to tour the building.


Two Chapters in Three Hours


Scarcely had that dedication wrapped up than it was time for visitors and participants to witness the beginning of the next chapter of UT sports history with the dedication of the new Art and Polly Pepin Stadium at 6:45 p.m.


“A stadium has been on this site for 80 years,” President Vaughn told those gathered for the dedication and soccer game that followed.


He presented a brief capsule of the site’s history, noting in particular the Pepin family and their company, Pepin Distributors, for their contributions to both the old structure and the new.


“We have the greatest respect for Art’s memory, as well as for his wife, Polly, and his son, Tom.  While the old Pepin Stadium has passed into history, we are pleased to continue the Pepin name on this new stadium.”


“Today is another page of that history,” said Pepin Distributing CEO Tom Pepin.  “We hope to continue the traditions, and we’re looking forward to a permanent facility and keeping the winning tradition going.


“The team here has represented this school very well.  So, we carry on a tradition in the spirit that it was first brought to The University of Tampa by my father.”


“Pepin Stadium is known around the world because of the success we’ve had on the playing fields and because of the uniqueness of the old stadium,” Athletic Director Larry Marfise said.  “We hope that the new stadium also will carry the Pepin name across the country and around the world.”


UT student-athletes presented Pepin with an autographed miniature soccer ball by.


The dedication was the culmination of a whirlwind of stadium activity that started with the demolition of the original Pepin Stadium on April 30, and the beginning of construction on its replacement shortly thereafter.  Construction moved ahead at a dizzying pace, and the shiny new 1,500-seat, $700,000 covered stadium was ready for the season’s first soccer game in August.


The original stadium was constructed in 1922 as part of the old Florida State Fairgrounds complex.  It was deeded to the University in 1971 to be used as a sports complex.


Named for one of Tampa’s most prominent businessmen, the late Arthur D. Pepin of Pepin Distributors, the stadium was home to UT’s men's and women's soccer teams.  Since 1980, the stadium has seen the winning of three national soccer championships for the University, the most recent in 2001.


It was the site of five NCAA national soccer championship contests, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ summer training camps from 1987 through 2001, and even winter headquarters of the Cincinnati Reds.  It also was there in 1923 that Babe Ruth slugged his 587-foot home run, the longest of his career, the ball coming to rest where a plaque commemorating the feat now stands on the lawn of the Sykes College of Business.


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