College Announces Naming Gift Commitment to Restore Campus Fitness Center – Home of Wonder Five Basketball Team
Campus News

John and Amber (Robbins) ’99 Elwood

Franklin College has received a naming gift commitment from Amber (Robbins) and John Elwood of Columbus, Ind. to support the restoration and renovation of the Franklin College Fitness Center. The updated facility will be renamed the Elwood Fitness Center.

“It is with immense gratitude that I recognize the incredible impact this generous support from the Elwood family will have on the student experience at Franklin College. John and Amber have been such loyal advocates for many college initiatives, and this lead gift will help ensure the success of the Fitness Center project,” said Kerry N. Prather, president of Franklin College. “The renovation of this iconic facility at once preserves important institutional history and addresses the need for expanded recreational and athletic resources for our students. Future generations of Grizzlies will benefit from the vision and philanthropy of the Elwood family.”

“Franklin College played a pivotal role in shaping both my personal growth and professional journey,” said Amber. “As a first-generation student coming from a small town, it served as a gateway to a multitude of academic and social avenues. It provided valuable opportunities for growth and exploration. From rigorous academics to experiential learning, Franklin equipped me with the skills and knowledge essential for becoming a highly effective educator. Now, John and I are thrilled to be able to give back to the college that has given us so much. Our goal is to support the vibrant and innovative educational experience at Franklin for future generations of Grizzlies.”

Amber is a 1999 graduate of Franklin College. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in education from Olivet University. She retired last year from Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. in Columbus, Ind. after 24 years of teaching. She currently serves on the Franklin College Board of Trustees.

John serves as chief executive officer (CEO) of Elwood Staffing headquartered in Columbus, Ind. He is a 1993 graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and holds a bachelor’s degree in business. He joined Elwood Staffing in 1996 and became CEO in 2021, leading the company to become one of the fastest-growing private companies in the country.

Athletic and recreational facility enhancements at the college over the last three years have included a partnership with Johnson Memorial Health resulting in the Johnson Memorial Health Athletic Annex. Tom Allen, then head football coach at Indiana University, provided support to construct a state-of-the-art weight room inside the annex.

“With more than 50% of our student body participating in the 21 men’s and women’s sports, the renovation of the Fitness Center will greatly enhance our resources,” said Andrew Hendricks, vice president for enrollment and marketing. “The combination of Spurlock Center, Grizzly Park, the JMH Athletic Annex, and now the soon-to-be renovated Elwood Fitness Center, gives the college an increased advantage in student recruitment and demonstrates a commitment to an improved co-curricular experience for our students. These resources extend to the daily fitness and wellness activities of all students, faculty and staff. We are extremely grateful to Amber and John for their generosity and commitment to a thriving Franklin College future.”

The Fitness Center was constructed in the early 1900s and expanded in the 1920s to accommodate the large crowds following the Franklin Wonder Five basketball team which was crowned national champion in 1923. In 2020, a state historical marker, only the fourth at the time in Johnson County, was placed outside the facility commemorating the team. The 19,425 square-foot facility is currently used for limited practice activities. It is not air-conditioned and includes a synthetic playing court – not collegiate length – and one batting cage. The lower level of the building once housed an indoor pool and the entire physical education and athletic department but is now only used for storage.

The planned renovation and restoration will preserve and improve the exterior of the historic building while retaining its architectural integrity. At the same time, the interior space will transform into a modern, functional space for students to pursue fitness, recreational and athletic activities. The gymnasium will be restored primarily for recreational use.

The lower level of the building will be renovated to provide office, locker room and support service areas for the football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams that compete in Faught Stadium across the street.

For more information about other opportunities to support the project, contact the Franklin College Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

POSTED Feb 12, 2024