WINGATE — Wingate University Athletics announced Monday that it has received a $2 million gift from Andrew (’01) and Julie Smart that will significantly advance fundraising for a student-athlete training and development facility. The commitment represents nearly half of the total cost of the $4.3 million project and pushes this transformational facility toward reality.
Wingate will name the facility the Smart Center for Athletic Excellence in recognition of the largest individual financial commitment in the history of the athletics department.
The 10,000-square-foot facility will be triple the size of Wingate’s current athletics weight room and will serve the University’s more than 700 student-athletes with state-of-the-art strength-development and other fitness equipment. It will also feature a nutrition center and space to support Bulldogs WIN, a leadership-development program that provides opportunities for student-athletes on Wingate’s 25 teams to become leaders and champions.
“The Smart Center for Athletic Excellence is going to be the cornerstone of our Wingate University student-athlete experience,” said Kelley Kish, director of athletics. “This is transformational for all 25 of our NCAA teams. To have a student-athlete alumnus like Andrew associated with the facility is a true testament to the positive impact we have had in the past and will have in the future. It’s fitting that the Smart Center for Athletic Excellence is going to elevate Wingate to the top of Division II for generations to come and will have Andrew’s name on it.”
Smart, the president and CEO of DiscoverFresh Foods, transferred to Wingate halfway through his college career and was a two-year letter winner as a student-athlete for the football program. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history. He has served on the University’s board of trustees since 2017.
“This gift is personal to me,” Smart said. “This is my university, and it has afforded me opportunities beyond what I could have ever imagined. It has been a goal of mine to make a sizable investment in my alma mater. As a proud graduate, I’m confident there are other stakeholders of Wingate who can make a similar gift, and I challenge them to do so. I can’t express how excited I am for the future of Wingate Athletics and the University!”
“Andrew achieved success at an early age and has been a generous contributor to the University as an alum and now trustee,” said University President Dr. Rhett Brown. “His desire to pay forward how he benefited as a student-athlete from mentors, leadership advice and opportunities outside the classroom make him a true difference-maker. When students leave Wingate, they will have more arrows in their quiver because of Andrew’s remarkable investment in the Smart Center for Athletic Excellence.”
Pending the completion of fundraising for the project, the University hopes to break ground in September 2022, with a tentative January 2024 completion date.
The Smart Center for Athletic Excellence will be constructed on the north side of campus, near Irwin Belk Stadium. It represents the first phase of the larger North Campus Master Plan that will reimagine the University’s athletic-facilities footprint.
The Smarts live in Greenville, S.C., with their two children.