GRINNELL — Grinnell College dedicated its new $90 million recreation and athletic center Saturday and named it the Charles Benson Bear Recreation and Athletic Center, for the 1939 Grinnell graduate, trustee and late publishing executive.
Bequests of more than $10 million from the estates of Bear and his partner, A. John Gambers, supported construction of a natatorium and fieldhouse in the two-phase center, begun in 2003. The bequests are among the largest combined gifts in the college’s history.
Bear worked throughout his 40-year publishing career for Time-Life International, holding several executive positions and retiring in 1984. A former member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, he also served as chairman of the board of Major League Baseball Properties and consultant to the commissioner of baseball.
The Grinnell College board of trustees, which Bear served from 1970 until his death in 2007, approved use of the unrestricted bequests for the new recreation and athletic center, recognizing Bear’s career and sports interests.
“Charley Bear was a warm, modest man of great professional accomplishment, who served Grinnell faithfully as a trustee and tireless admission volunteer in the New York City area,” Grinnell President Russell K. Osgood said in a statement. ”This outstanding facility is among the best in Division III recreation and athletics.”
The Bear Recreation and Athletic Center connects first- and second-phase construction projects underground. The first phase of the center, completed in 2005, includes 1,250-seat Darby Gymnasium, home of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and volleyball team; an auxiliary practice gymnasium; and a fitness center.
The soon-to-be completed second phase includes the 500-seat natatorium with 50-meter pool and movable bulkheads and the six-lane 200-meter fieldhouse with seating for 400.