Media Advisory: Wake Forest University celebrates leadership gift for athletics, wellness

Wake Forest University alumnus Ben Sutton (’80, JD ’83) and his family will make a leadership gift to his alma mater to launch a major health and wellness initiative on campus.  The centerpiece will be the renovation of historic Reynolds Gym that includes a major new addition, creating a facility with more than 250,000 square feet of space dedicated to fitness and well-being.

The facility will bring together the elements of campus life, student health, academics, student recreation and NCAA Division I athletics under one roof.  In honor of four generations of the Sutton’s family who have attended Wake Forest University, the facility will be named the Sutton Wellness and Recreation Center at historic Reynolds Gym.

Although Sutton and University officials declined to announce the exact amount of the gift, it is the second largest ever received from an alumnus, according to Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch.

According to President Hatch, the state-of-the-art fitness, health and wellness center for students, faculty, and staff will be the first and most visible sign of Wake Forest University’s renewed commitment to a culture of wellness. Sutton’s commitment provides the lead gift for the renovation of Reynolds Gym, and the university has already initiated an effort to seek funds to complete the project.

“Ben Sutton’s wonderfully generous gift allows us to move the planning process forward on this combined new and renovated building,” Dr. Hatch said following a public announcement about Sutton’s gift during the Wake Forest-Army homecoming game. “This center is a vital cornerstone in a planned campus-wide effort to enhance the well-being of our students, specifically, and our community as a whole.”

Sutton, who is president of IMG College, the largest collegiate sports marketing company in the nation, has a long relationship with Wake Forest. His parents, Ben Sutton, Sr. and Minnie Branch; and his maternal grandfather, former Trustee Dr. Douglas M. Branch; all attended Wake Forest, and his daughter is currently a junior. Considered a “Double Deac” with Wake Forest undergraduate and law degrees, Sutton has also served on the University’s Board of Trustees and established a scholarship in his father’s name for students from North Carolina.  He was honored with the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award earlier this year.

“Wake Forest is central to our family’s history,” Sutton said.   “It gives all of us great pleasure to develop a facility that will serve future generations of Demon Deacons.  Supporting this university is part of our family tradition, and we are honored as a family to provide new opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to focus on wellness.”

Wake Forest Athletics Director Ron Wellman observed that Sutton’s interest in promoting collegiate sports began at his alma mater.  He said that Sutton often credits his experience as marketing director for the Demon Deacons in the 1980s as his inspiration for starting his own business.

“Wake Forest was his first partner,” said Wellman, “and we are proud to be a part of his success story.  Ben Sutton’s deep passion and extensive knowledge of collegiate athletics made him uniquely capable of seeing the immense impact his philanthropy could have on our student-athletes and our community,” he added.

While a new health and wellness center will be the first step in the wellness initiative, Wake Forest is strengthening its commitment to not only fitness and recreation, but all dimensions of well-being: emotional, intellectual and environmental.  Under the leadership of Provost Rogan Kersh, a national expert on health policy, the initiative will explore how to merge intellectual, philosophical and physical aspects of wellness. Kersh said the center will serve as a hub for many activities – allowing users to mix workouts and downtime with peers, take fitness classes and healthy-cooking lessons, facilitate health and exercise science research and wellness tips from Student Health experts.

Additionally, the facility will house new state-of-the-art strength, conditioning, sports medicine and nutrition components for all of Wake Forest’s student-athletes that Head Football Coach Jim Grobe, Wellman and Sutton say will be on par with the finest athletic programs in the country.

Kersh and Wellman said that early plans for the new center include an expanded space for research and teaching in Health and Exercise Science, modernized space for fitness and recreational sports, a revitalized health clinic, a new volleyball venue and spaces for fitness activity ranging from free weights to weight machines, group fitness classes, a swimming pool and basketball courts. Open spaces filled with natural light will encourage users to gather for workouts, recreation or relaxation. Food service with healthy options is anticipated, as well. The improved space will create an environment where a deeper understanding of physical activity, stress management, nutrition and mental health contributes to the development of the whole person.

About Ben C. Sutton, Jr. and IMG College
Ben Sutton continues to promote Wake Forest athletics as president of IMG College, the nation’s leading collegiate multimedia, marketing, stadium seating, ticketing and licensing/brand management company, representing more than 200 of the nation’s top collegiate properties. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., IMG College employs more than 800 people in over 100 locations throughout the U.S. IMG College is a division of IMG Worldwide, Inc., a global sports, fashion and media business. For more information, please visit

About Wake Forest University:
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at

Note: Hi-resolution photos of Ben Sutton and a rendering of the wellness center are available upon request.

Categories: Media Advisory