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
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
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
“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
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
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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