CHADRON – For seven decades Chadron State College alumnus Verne Lewellen has been an advocate for his alma mater. To honor his contributions over the years, the Nebraska State College Board of Trustees unanimously voted Friday to name the hospitality center in the Sports Complex in recognition of the Lewellen family. The Verne and Erma Lewellen and Family Hospitality Center will provide a gathering space for boosters, alumni and supporters in the Con Marshall Press Box at Don Beebe Stadium.
The stadium renovation is expected to be completed when the CSC football season begins in 2018.
Lewellen, a longtime teacher, coach and school administrator in northwest Nebraska, died earlier this year at the age of 92, but he supported Chadron State College for much of his life. Prior to his death, Lewellen and his wife, Erma, made a pledge to the Chadron State Foundation’s Next Horizon campaign to ensure alumni would have a gathering place in the renovated stadium.
“It’s a fitting tribute to Verne and his family because they were such a large part of CSC and Eagle athletics,” said Chadron State President Randy Rhine. “Everyone who passes through that area of the stadium will know that he and his family have positively impacted Chadron State College. The Lewellen family has supported the college in so many ways through the years and this is one more gracious gift that will create an environment where future Eagles can convene.”
Lewellen, a 1950 graduate and member of the Athletic Hall of Fame, was awarded the college’s Distinguished Service Award in 1988, the same year he and Erma started providing scholarship assistance to students from communities where the couple lived. Lewellen also served as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Eagles’ Booster Club.
A World War II veteran, Lewellen was also instrumental in the active alumni group, Purple Passion. The group includes many former student-athletes and it convened in dozens of locations, including Chadron, since the 1960s.
“I’ve been really close to the college through the years,” Lewellen said in a news release about his pledge to the Vision 2011 campaign. “Growing up when I did, people helped each other all the time. It was right at the end of the Depression, and my parents were such that if anybody needed anything, they would give it to them. We weren’t rich and nobody else was.”
In late March, college officials announced $8.6 million in funding of the $11.1 million needed has been secured to renovate Don Beebe Stadium, Con Marshall Press Box and Elliott Field. The Sports Complex’s project is the first comprehensive renovation of the football stadium since it was built in 1929.
“The generous contribution from the Lewellen family has given the college the opportunity to move forward with the stadium project and their gift is instrumental in helping us do that,” Athletic Director Joel Smith said.
The stadium improvements will increase accessibility to the stadium and expand seating for spectators. Additionally, the concourse level underneath the two-story pavilion will have modern concessions, bathrooms and ticket areas. The concourse also provides access to the second level by a stairway and elevator. The Con Marshall Press Box will be updated to accommodate media, game officials and coaching staffs.
In preparation of the 2018 season, fundraising and construction timelines will be tight. The stadium’s demolition will begin the Monday following the Eagles’ final home game in mid-November. CSC is expected to open the stadium at the beginning of the 2018 season, provided the remaining funding can be secured.
The Sports Complex is one initiative of the comprehensive Next Horizon campaign. For information on how to contribute, contact the Chadron State Foundation.
—Alex Helmbrecht, Director of College Relations