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News Archives - 2004

Wrestling legend Alan Rice to donate $1 million to Augsburg College athletic facility expansion project

Apr. 19, 2004

National Wrestling Hall of Fame member and Minnesota native Alan Rice is giving a $1 million gift to Augsburg College as part of the college's "Access to Excellence" capital campaign, college officials announced on Monday.

The gift, the largest ever given for an Augsburg athletic project, will be used as a key component of the $5 million expansion of Si Melby Hall, the college's main athletic building.

Rice's gift is being given in memory of his wife, Gloria Rice, who passed away on Sept. 1, 2001. The two, who were married for 44 years, shared a love of amateur wrestling and worked together in establishing Minnesota as a national hotbed for amateur wrestling, in particular the Greco-Roman discipline.

"This is a wonderful way for Alan to honor wrestling and his wife's memory," said Augsburg President Dr. William V. Frame. "Gloria shared Alan's life-long appreciation for wrestling, and this philanthropic investment will generate significant benefits."

Rice, one of the first American wrestlers ever to make an impact in Greco-Roman wrestling, has dedicated this gift to the creation of a Greco-Roman wrestling training center as a part of the Si Melby Hall expansion. The proposed training center will attract both youth and adult wrestlers to train in the Greco-Roman discipline at Augsburg, a school with a reputation as one of the top small-college wrestling programs in the country.

Under head coach Jeff Swenson '79, Augsburg has won a record eight NCAA Division III national championships in wrestling in the last 14 years, has finished in the top two nationally in 15 of the last 16 seasons, and has earned top-20 national finishes every year since 1971.

In addition, Swenson's Auggies have developed a reputation as successes both on the wrestling mat and in the classroom. Augsburg has had a national-record 81 athletes earn National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-American honors in the last 21 seasons, and the Auggies are the only team in Division III wrestling to finish in the top 10 nationally in both the wrestling and academic national standings each of the last seven seasons.

"The combination of outstanding academic and athletic performance with outstanding athletic training facilities should produce results for which we can all be proud," Rice said.

In addition to the wrestling training center, the Si Melby Hall expansion project will add four classrooms, expanded intercollegiate team locker room facilities, and an expanded fitness center including a separate cardiovascular fitness area, a separate aerobics/multi-purpose studio and a general student-body locker room. In addition, improvements in meeting facilities, labs, faculty/staff locker rooms and a new hospitality area are also planned for the expansion.

The expansion project is in response to the ever-increasing use of Augsburg's athletic facilities, not only by athletes in the school's 18 intercollegiate sports, but by a growing percentage of the school's 3,000 students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Twin Cities community at-large. Si Melby Hall was built in 1961 and has seen several improvements over its history of service to the campus, the most recent an expansion and renovation project in 2000.

The creation of a Greco-Roman wrestling training center will also enable the school to attract world-class athletes to train in its facilities, Rice said. With senior-level wrestlers training for berths on U.S. national teams and in the Olympics, other athletes could be inspired to excel in amateur wrestling and other sports on the Augsburg campus.

Rice has spent a lifetime involved in competing, coaching and promoting amateur wrestling. As a wrestler, Rice was a two-time state high school champion, a two-time Big Ten titlist (1948, 1949) at the University of Minnesota, and a competitor for more than a decade on the Olympic level. He placed fifth at the 1956 Olympics in Greco-Roman wrestling, the highest finish for an American at that time. He won national titles in both freestyle and Greco-Roman in 1956, and finished fifth in the world in freestyle (1954) and was a place-winner in the 1956 Olympic Greco-Roman competition.

Upon the end of his individual career, Rice became an avid coach and supporter of his sport. In 1972, Rice served his country as head coach of the U.S. Greco-Roman team at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

In 1966, he and his wife Gloria formed the Minnesota Amateur Wrestling Club (now the Gopher Wrestling Club), which has become one of the most prominent in the country in developing top Greco-Roman wrestlers. The club has produced at least one wrestler on every U.S. world championship or Olympic team each of the last 40 years, a record that, it is believed, no other wrestling club can boast.

Over the past three decades, he has helped to raise and contribute nearly $1 million to endow the Minnesota club for continued training in both Olympic wrestling disciplines – Greco-Roman and freestyle. Rice was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2001.

The Si Melby Hall expansion project is one segment of the most ambitious capital campaign in Augsburg history, the $55 million "Access to Excellence" campaign. The goal of the campaign is to help ensure that Augsburg's model of "Transforming Education" is available for future generations.

The centerpiece of the campaign is the construction of a new Science Center and renovation of the existing Science Hall. In addition to the Si Melby Hall expansion, other components of the campaign include the construction of a Gateway Building on Riverside Avenue – which would house the college's alumni center, StepUP program and retail facilities for the campus and community – along with endowment support and annual giving growth.