Betty Siegel, the university’s president emeritus, can be picked out of any crowd. Decked out in stylishly oversized red glasses, the always-smiling lady is celebrated for treating everyone with kindness, be they waitresses or nobility.
The $38.7 million Dr. Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center will encompass 176,000 square feet, which is more than triple the size of the existing 55,000-square-foot student recreational center built in 1967.
Based on results from student surveys conducted by KSU’s department of sports and rec, the new building will house two pools — an indoor competition swimming pool and an outdoor leisure swimming pool — one outdoor basketball court and four indoor courts.
It will also include a multi-sport court, eight tennis courts, a weight and fitness area, a rock climbing wall, an indoor track and other amenities such as sand volleyball and racquetball courts.
“For the 25 years I served as president of Kennesaw State, I enjoyed the unwavering support of family, the students, staff and administration at KSU, and this extraordinary community,” Siegel said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “I share this moment with them all. I am deeply honored to have this new facility named for me.”
Siegel served as KSU’s president from September 1981 until May 2006. She led the institution’s growth from 4,000 students with 15 undergraduate degrees to an institution with more than 18,000 students offering 55 graduate and undergraduate degree programs.
Former Gov. Carl Sanders, who led the initiative to build the institution when he was governor in the 1960s, called Siegel a fireball for transforming the university into what it is today.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Jim Bodiford once said if Siegel had chosen law she’d be sitting on the United States Supreme Court.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson has said Siegel is the best public speaker he knows, while Marietta attorney Fred Bentley Sr., a former state senator and representative, has said Siegel has never forgotten her roots as a coal miner’s daughter in the hills of eastern Kentucky.
“She has been all over the world,” Bentley said. “She has appeared before the Queen. She appeared before Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She’s been in front of everybody that you think of that’s important, but the main thing is that she never has forgotten what started her, and I am proud of her and proud of Joel and proud of her sons because they have made a difference in this world.”
She also was the first woman to lead a University System of Georgia institution.
Siegel now serves as the distinguished chair of the Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics & Character.
Since her retirement in 2006, she has launched a nonprofit foundation for global ethical leadership. She also serves as an adviser and consultant in the private, public and nonprofit sectors.
Kennesaw State President Dan Papp said it was fitting for the new center to be named after Siegel.
“Dr. Siegel’s bold vision and quarter-century of leadership at the helm of this great institution planted the seeds for what our students enjoy today,” he said. “The Siegel Center will reflect our deep appreciation for her contributions.”
The center, which is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification, is financed by student fees of $68 per semester and bonds issued through the KSU Foundation and the Development Authority of Cobb County.