Catherine Henderson, Reporter
May 6, 2019
Evanston Township High School announced a plan to open a new wellness center at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, thanks to a $330,000 donation from alumnus Michael Arrington, who graduated from ETHS in 1961.
Joanne Bertsche, the executive director of the ETHS Foundation, said the organization started a funding campaign to replace the school’s weight room in the spring of 2018. In addition to Arrington’s donation, the foundation has raised $200,000 from other donors, Bertsche wrote in an email. The facility will be named the Michael B. Arrington Wellness and Performance Center, according to a news release from ETHS.
“The ETHS Foundation is grateful to alums like Mr. Arrington who allow a public school like ours to go beyond conventional funding to create extraordinary spaces for our students,” Bertsche told The Daily. “Without private philanthropy, we wouldn’t be able to have these kinds of facilities.”
Arrington was a student-athlete at ETHS and was the starting fullback on the football team when they won the state championship in 1960. He founded his company, Arrington Travel, in 1969, and today is an entrepreneur and real estate investor.
“Sports have been an important part of my life,” Arrington told The Daily. “My teammates I grew up with were and are an important part of my life.”
The new facility will replace the weight room at ETHS with a strength and conditioning center. Bertsche said the current equipment is not relevant for students today, as it lacks the adaptability to adjust for different users.
Bertsche said the new center will have a flexible, open floor plan with new equipment to give students a space to work on their fitness goals. She added that the new Ryan Fieldhouse at Northwestern University inspired some of the plans for the center, which will be implemented on a high-school scale.
Bertsche emphasized that the center will serve students of all levels — from elite athletes to anyone looking to take advantage of the facilities to set their own goals. In Illinois, all high school students must take four years of physical education, so much of the student body will benefit from the new center, Bertsche said.
In tandem with the new wellness center, the physical education department is revamping the curriculum with a particular emphasis on the school’s equity goals, according to the release. Coaches and teachers will work with a strength and conditioning specialist to help develop individualized goals for students of all fitness levels, including those with disabilities.
ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino said in the release that Arrington’s donation will have long-lasting impacts on ETHS students.
“The new Michael B. Arrington Wellness and Performance Center may be the most significant facility improvement we’ve ever made towards increasing the performance of all of our athletic programs at ETHS,” Livatino said in the release.
Arrington said his personal mantra is “expect victory,” and with the new facility, he hopes to embolden school spirit at ETHS. He added that there is a correlation between the caliber of a training facility to the success of sports teams. With the new fitness center, he hopes ETHS’ “already excellent teams” will reach their goals at the next level.
Arrington said he wanted to continue to give back to the Evanston community, where he grew up, raised his children and now lives. He said his own granddaughters will attend ETHS when they go to high school. For Arrington, this donation represents an opportunity to impact “many, many lives over many, many years.”
“My whole family has been very involved with the culture and history of Evanston,” Arrington said. “We love the city and everything it has to offer… This is a wonderful way to provide a sophisticated facility.”