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Genesee Community College breaks ground for student, events centers

BATAVIA – Thursday afternoon’s groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Student Success Center and the Event Center at Genesee Community College proved to be a celebration of the college’s 50 years of success and the generosity of Genesee County residents, most notably a benefactor who dedicated his life to advancing the cause of education.

“We will dedicate the Event Center to Dick Call,” GCC President James M. Sunser said. “The Richard C. Call Arena will be a tribute to the legacy of the man who has given so much to the community.”

Sunser made the dedication announcement at the close of the 30-minute program, which also included brief remarks by Diane D. Torcello, chair of the GCC Board of Trustees; Raymond F. Cianfrini, chair of the Genesee County Legislature; Eunice A. Lewin, trustee of the State University of New York; and Craig Yunker, chair of the GCC Foundation, which has raised $5.4 million through its “Creating Our Future Together Campaign.”

It ended with college and local leaders donning hard hats and raising shovels to symbolize the work that already has begun on the 18,000-square-foot Student Success Center, which will become the new “front door” of the campus, and will be attached to the existing Conable Technology Building.

The Event Center will be located at the far west side of the campus and, at 56,000 square feet, will include the largest open public space in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

While most of the comments at the ceremony focused on those present who have contributed to making the $24.6 million project a reality, it was Sunser’s praise of the late Richard Call that made the biggest impact.

“There was one person who gave us the momentum (to get this done), and that was Dick Call. One of the saddest moments was when I learned that he had cancer and then again when I heard of his passing in August 2014,” Sunser said.

Sunser spoke of Call’s “long-standing and deep commitment to GCC” and his important role in the construction of the Conable Technology Building. He also described Call’s vision, enthusiasm and interest, crediting the founder – along with his brother, Robert – of Call Farms with coming up with the idea of an Events Center.

“The Event Center will be a permanent symbol of the role agriculture plays in our community and to one of the greatest advocates for the campaign,” Sunser said, adding that the fundraising effort also has generated money for endowed scholarships for area students.

Robert Call and many of the family’s relatives were in attendance.

Richard Call’s son, Peter, said the dedication of the Event Center meant “the world” to him and his family.

“He was a big believer in education,” he said of his father. “Creating opportunities for folks to enhance their education is what he was all about.”

Sunser said the new facilities are scheduled to be completed in about 15 months.

The project is being funded by SUNY, Genesee County and the capital campaign.

The college has planned more events over the next year and a half to commemorate its 50th anniversary.