Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
November 9, 2015
Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink
Photos: Eric Johnson
Program coordinator: Brad Stark
GU student center draws top grades
          That pretty much sums up the reaction of the 17 club members and guests who on Nov. 9th toured Gonzaga University’s splendid new Hemmingson Student Center.
The $60 million center, completed in July and dedicated Oct. 19, replaces the COG, a student dining center and lounge opened in 1954.  Latin lovers may know that COG stands for Circulus Omnium Gonzaga-orum, loosely defined as Circle of Company for all Gonzagians.
          In the new center, the second-story dining hall is named the COG, and it abuts the Avista Foundation patio, which houses honey bee hives, a statue of Icarus, and a hydroponic garden, which provides lettuce, tomatoes and other items to the GU kitchen in the basement.  Featured meal on our tour date was “Carne Asada Beef Plate.”
          The new center has 167,726 square feet of space (three floors and a basement); the COG had 60,000 square feet of space.  Floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the rooms provided ample natural light, even on a cloudy Monday. Ironically, the “GU Outdoors” center, housed in the basement, seems to be the only dedicated space without a window.
           Our tour guide said various rooms in the center are named for sites visited by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish knight who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuit) order.  The executive dining room is named Loyola.
          Other names continue local history, including the Bulldog restaurant, a second-floor area for family dining and drinks open to the public.  The entry preserves the old sign from the former neighborhood gathering spot.
          The huge ballroom space on the third floor can accommodate 1,857 people, or be divided into three smaller venues which can serve 600 people each.  Our guide said the first wedding reception is scheduled Jan. 2.
          The GU center includes 140 rooms, 10 dining locations, 3 coffee spots and has 157 phones. Even during the midday rush, traffic moved freely from dining spots to study rooms and lounge areas.
          While the building is fully wired, there also is a quiet “reflection room” with a calming water feature on the 3rd floor, sponsored by the campus ministry.  Also on that floor are multi-cultural, LGBT and veteran student resource rooms.
           The basement houses a 185-seat theater which features movies for students and guests.
           The only bugs in the building mentioned were some loose stairs, propped up for now with wood shims.
           Perhaps the only unanswered question: what do the students call the place?
          The name: The new GU student center is named for John J. Hemmingson, whose $25 million contribution made him the lead donor for the $60 million center.  Hemmingson, a Montana native, is a Northwest entrepreneur who has lived in Post Falls.  A GU trustee, he also has been active in Spokane’s Boys and Girls Club, the Rypien Foundation and Mobius Science Center.
          The food: The “recommended” and predominant caterer and food services provider at GU is Sodexo, a huge French-based multi-national firm.  Founded in Marseilles in 1966, the name comes from Societe d’Exploitation Hoteliere, later shortened from Sodexho to Sodexo.  At GU, our tour guide said even the Starbucks outlet uses Sodexo as its food supplier.  Sodexo has had contracts with GU and the Community Colleges of Spokane for years.
          Construction numbers: Hoffman Construction of Portland was general contractor on the student center. A two-page ad in the Oct. 15 Gonzaga Bulletin newspaper listed these construction totals: 781,200 bricks, 270,000 hours of labor,8,200 tons of concrete, 1,045 tons of rebar, 1,500 construction jobs.