By Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
Last Wednesday, September 18, the Holy Cross community celebrated the “topping off” of the new Joanne Chouinard-Luth Recreation and Wellness Center. Members of the campus community were invited to sign the last beam to be lowered on the foundation of the building, and Holy Cross President Fr. Philip Boroughs, S.J. offered a blessing of the facility and all the work that has gone into it thus far.
The new facility, informally known as “The Jo,” was made possible by a generous gift from John E. Luth ‘74 and his wife Joanne Chouinard-Luth, the recreation center’s namesake. The couple’s donation of $40 million is the single largest gift in the history of the College, supporting not only this project, but also the state-of-the-art Luth Athletic Complex, completed in 2018, for Holy Cross Division I athletics teams and their student-athletes. The Jo will replace the historic Field House, which had run its course after the College purchased it for a nominal fee of $1 from the U.S. government after World War II.
For Chouinard-Luth, the donation of the Recreation and Wellness Center is more than just an act of philanthropy. A practicing dentist for more than three decades, Chouinard-Luth has centered her career around promoting health and wellness in her various communities. As Chouinard-Luth’s dental career waned on, she noticed a troublesome trend: more and more of her patients were falling prey to not just relatively minor cavities, but also more serious health issues such as Type 2 diabetes caused by high-sugar diets.
Feeling called to address these broader health issues in a more holistic manner, Chouinard-Luth went back to school in 2011 and earned a master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia University’s Institute of Health Nutrition. She then extended her expertise in wellness by attaining a chef’s certificate from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2016. Chouinard-Luth has applied her incredible breadth of knowledge in meaningful ways, successfully advocating for nutrition to be implemented in the curriculum of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (her alma mater) and creating holistic wellness programs at the YMCA of Madison, New Jersey, where she is on the board of directors.
Chouinard-Luth’s most impactful philanthropic contribution, however, may very well be the new Recreation and Wellness Center, scheduled to be complete and ready to go by the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. The three-story, $30 million complex will house a jogging track on the top level with views overlooking the Worcester hills. The second and third floors will house weights and cardio equipment, along with locker rooms. Basketball courts, yoga and cycling class studios, and spaces for new health, witness, and fitness programming will also be located in the facility. There will be ample outdoor green space that can be used for fitness classes in warmer months. Additionally, Holy Cross club sports teams will be able to host visiting teams in The Jo, allowing them to be more active and competitive in their respective leagues.
The Joanne Chouinard-Luth Recreation and Wellness Center will transform campus, giving it a more modern look similar to the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex. More than that, though, it will bring a more modern approach to well-being on a college campus. The Jo will allow the College to expand programming, such as yoga and mindfulness training, that promotes holistic wellness. It is the latest – but not the last – investment the College has made to provide its students with the most well-rounded college experience available, and future generations of Crusaders will have the incredible generosity of John Luth ‘74 and Joanne Chouinard-Luth to thank for that.