Smith family makes $15 million gift to Notre Dame for recreation center

Author: Dennis Brown

Gymnasium Feature

University of Notre Dame alumnus Tripp Smith and his wife, Sheila, of Summit, New Jersey, have made a $15 million gift to his alma mater for a recreation center in the new Duncan Student Center.

“At Notre Dame we have always – as an integral part of our holistic approach to education – encouraged the cultivation of habits aimed at fostering good health and wellness,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president. “This wonderful gift from Tripp and Sheila will provide our students, as well as faculty and staff, with a magnificent new facility where they can engage in many different forms of exercise and recreation. We are deeply grateful not only for this generous gift, which will make such a positive difference for our campus community, but also for the Smith family’s friendship and wise counsel over many years.”

The 80,000-square-foot Smith Center for Recreational Sports is a central component of the Duncan Student Center, located on the west side of Notre Dame Stadium.

 “One of the most distinctive aspects of Notre Dame is our sense of community,” said Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for student affairs. “The Smith Center for Recreational Sports will build upon this foundation by providing students with space to connect, relax, exercise and grow. We are most appreciative of the Smiths’ generosity.”

Located on the third and fourth levels of the Duncan Student Center, the Smith Center for Recreational Sports features 53,000 square feet of space on level three and 27,000 on level four, adding 20,000 more square feet of recreation space on campus. The third level will include:

  • A full-size basketball court with bleachers.
  • A cardio and free-weight area totaling 13,084 square feet, with space for elliptical machines, treadmills, stationary bikes, weight machines, free-weight benches and weight racks.
  • An open area with modular exercise space.
  • Three studios totaling 5,420 square feet for yoga, dance, martial arts and group fitness instruction.
  • Office space for RecSports staff and personal trainers.
  • A student lounge.
  • A spin studio.
  • Men’s and women’s locker rooms.

Level four is designed to allow for views onto the main floor of the center and will feature:

  • A three-lane, 260-meter indoor track (one-sixth of a mile).
  • A boxing area totaling 7,363 square feet, with two boxing rings and a track system for quickly setting up and storing heavy bags and speed bags.
  • More than 1,500 square feet of open space for stretching and individual exercise.
  • The third and fourth levels include the top two sections of a four-story rock climbing wall.

“Sheila and I recognize the student experience at Notre Dame is what makes the University so special. Four generations of Smith family members have proudly been educated at Notre Dame and the University is at the center of our family life,” said Tripp Smith. “We are proud to support the new center for recreational sports.”

A 1987 Notre Dame graduate, Smith is a co-founder of GSO Capital Partners and a Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group. GSO is the credit arm of Blackstone and currently has over $90 billion of assets under management. GSO specializes in non-investment-grade debt in a number of strategies, including direct lending, rescue lending and various leveraged loan strategies.

Smith is a member of Notre Dame’s Advisory Council for the Student-Athlete and Campaign Cabinet and co-chairs the Wall Street Leadership Committee.

Sheila Smith earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accountancy from Villanova University. The couple has four children: Jack, a 2015 Notre Dame graduate; Hannah, a 2017 Notre Dame graduate; Matthew, a sophomore at Notre Dame; and Thomas, 16.

The Smiths previously have provided generous gifts to the University for the video board at Purcell Pavilion and to the Malpass Scholars Program and President’s Circle.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on September 01, 2017.