January 23, 2023

Roberts Wesleyan University Celebrates Grand Opening of the Golisano Community Engagement Center

Golisano Community Engagement Center Ribbon Cutting at Roberts Weselyan University.

Ribbon Cutters Pictured Above: Dave Beinetti (SWBR), Robert Duffy (Chamber of Commerce), Dr. Terry Taber (Board Chair), Emerson Fullwood (Board), Ryan Zegarelli (SWBR), Mike Zale (Ogden Town Supervisor), Adam Bello (Monroe Cty Exec), Dr. Deana Porterfield (President of Roberts Wesleyan University), Autumn Dillow (Student Body President at Roberts Wesleyan University), Richard Greer (Director of Facilities at Roberts Wesleyan University), Dr. Carrie Starr (Director of the Community Institutes at Roberts Wesleyan University), Mark Maddalina (SWBR), and Congressman Joe Morelle

The Golisano Community Engagement Center is now a reality at Roberts Wesleyan University. President Deana L. Porterfield was joined today by campus leaders, community partners and friends of the university to celebrate the grand opening of the new and highly anticipated $13.9 million Golisano Community Engagement Center that will serve as a hub for connection, community interaction and student life resources on campus.

“Today is an exciting day and marks an important milestone moment in our community,” President Deana L. Porterfield said. “The Golisano Community Engagement Center has been greatly needed and anticipated for years, so to finally be opening the building for use by our students and community is a dream come true. I am so thankful for the generosity of Tom Golisano, our alumni, donors and friends, and so very grateful to God for this beautiful facility and the blessing it will be in the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and those we serve and partner with in the Greater Rochester community.”

The modern 26,167-square-foot, two-story center reflects Roberts Wesleyan’s deeply rooted spiritual and community ties, serving as the first building on campus to provide centralized space for both students and the community to gather and interact. Upon entering through the Parris Family Welcome Center, which includes a visual timeline of the institution’s storied 157-year history, the first floor
encompasses 3,000 square feet of event space available for campus functions and rental opportunities.

Watch – Grand Opening of the GCEC and Ribbon Cutting

Among the first-floor amenities are inclusive areas for learning and recreational activity, including a gaming lounge and study spaces for students. Palmer’s Place, a grab-and-go-style café named after Dwight M. (Kip) and Amy Palmer, fifth-generation owners of Rochester-based Palmer Family of Companies, will also be located on the first floor among offices for Student Life and Spiritual Life, and
the Rinker Conference Hall named in honor of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Foundation.

The second floor houses the Offices for Career Development and International Engagement alongside a prayer chapel, commuter lounge, a forensic laboratory and the Clugston Innovation Conference Room that offers LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Training and consultations facilitated by certified instructors. The second story will also function as a workplace for Roberts Wesleyan’s custom training and certificate programs offered through the Community Institutes. The Community Institutes provide community-focused educational solutions and resources to area businesses and organizations seeking real-world learning experiences, insight and transformational partnerships both locally and abroad.

Highlighted among the building’s many unique structural and design features are art installations created by Roberts Wesleyan students in collaboration with local artist Shawn Dunwoody. The project was initiated during the fall 2022 semester to create eight student works of art in a variety of mediums that are now showcased around the building. The artwork, which includes an original piece titled “Upward: Tension, Balance, Belief,” designed by Dunwoody, reflects people, symbolism, connection and the spirit of lifting each other up. Roberts Wesleyan also worked with local artist Valerie O’Hara, a third-generation stained-glass artist and owner of Pike Stained Glass Studios, to commission a stained-glass window inspired by Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) for the prayer chapel.

Roberts Wesleyan announced plans for the new state-of-the-art facility in August 2019, following a generous $7.5 million naming gift from community philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano. The gift is the single largest in Roberts Wesleyan’s 157-year history and all remaining capital to support the completion of the building was funded by major donors, partners and alumni through the university’s $15 million Connect the Community campaign.

“My congratulations to Roberts Wesleyan University on the opening of this important new center,” Golisano said, in a statement to mark the occasion. “I’m proud to have been a part of this exciting endeavor. The new Golisano Community Engagement Center will bring together students and community. It will also give Roberts Wesleyan new opportunities to share its professional and educational expertise with the broader community and provide essential training and education to
businesses, corporate and community partners, and students.”

The Golisano Community Engagement Center was a key component of the university’s seven-year strategic plan initiated in 2016. The plan focused on engaged campus culture, innovative growth and transformational partnerships. The building also symbolizes years of intentional growth and program development, and launches the beginning of the new Vision 2030 strategic plan, positioning Roberts
Wesleyan as New York’s leading university for character education.

Building on the university’s 157-year history of “Education for Character,” Roberts Wesleyan University is committed to graduating students who are thoughtful, spiritually mature, service-oriented people who develop the character and competence to bridge societal tensions and respond to the profound issues of today. Customized educational pathways and career-enhancing practical experiences prepare students within a learning environment that is rooted in Christian faith to become courageous leaders for the flourishing of people and communities throughout the region, nation and world.

Roberts Wesleyan broke ground on the Golisano Community Engagement Center in May 2021 and selected SWBR and Home Leasing to lead the design, architecture and construction of the building. Richard Greer, director of facilities at Roberts Wesleyan, served as the project manager on behalf of the university.

For more information on the Golisano Community Engagement Center and Roberts Wesleyan University, please visit


“The Golisano Community Engagement Center is a commendable and pioneering concept by Roberts Wesleyan designed to forge a bond between our local businesses and their future employees. This exciting new space will help set students up for success while continuing to grow our local economy. Congratulations on this momentous achievement!”
— Rep. Joe Morelle, U.S. Congressman, NY-25


“Congratulations to Roberts Wesleyan University on the opening of the new Golisano Community Engagement Center. The center provides a second-to-none learning environment for future generations of leaders. Thank you to Tom Golisano for your historic investment in the university, and thank you to university president Deana Porterfield for your leadership and advocacy to secure a brighter future for your students and faculty.”
— Adam J. Bello, Monroe County Executive


“Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce is proud to take part in the grand opening of the Golisano
Community Engagement Center at Roberts Wesleyan University. This state-of-the-art new center will be a much-needed hub for connection and collaboration among students at this great establishment and an asset to our entire community. We congratulate Roberts Wesleyan University President Dr. Deana L. Porterfield, as well as thank Tom Golisano for his generous gift to make the center possible. We look forward to continuing to support Roberts Wesleyan University and the Golisano Community
Engagement Center as they prepare our region’s workforce and leaders for a bright future.”
— Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO


“Roberts Wesleyan has earned the reputation of educating women and men of character who are prepared to enter the workforce as leaders who are competent, ethical and thoughtful. This facility will open new opportunities for students and community members to expand that kind of education in innovative ways that benefit the Greater Rochester community and beyond.”
— Terry R. Taber, Board Chair, Roberts Wesleyan University and Northeastern Seminary


“The new Golisano Community Engagement Center will provide more opportunities for students to connect with each other, whether it be grabbing a bite to eat with friends, exchanging ideas and thoughtful conversations, or gathering to study or play games. They will make memories that they will carry with them long after they graduate. Students are excited for this new addition to campus, and I have no doubt that this space will be used to further enhance the Roberts community that we already know and love. I am excited to see how this space will facilitate more growth within the Roberts Wesleyan University campus and extend into the surrounding Rochester community.”
— Autumn Dillow, Student Body President, Roberts Wesleyan University

About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation

Tom Golisano — entrepreneur, philanthropist and civic leader — is the founder of Paychex Inc., the nation’s largest human resource company for small to medium-sized businesses, providing integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources, and insurance services for more than 730,000 clients in the U.S. and Northern Europe. Mr. Golisano’s vision, perseverance, and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives – in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. His continuing investments are helping drive the success of numerous businesses and start-ups. His personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals — including three children’s hospitals that bear his name — and numerous educational institutions and other organizations exceed $330 million. He has dedicated more than $95 million to advancing inclusive health around the world, including $67 million to Special Olympics, helping to close the significant gap in access to care for people with intellectual disabilities. A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, in 1985 Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With more than $60 million in gross assets, it is one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. devoted to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities awarding about $3 million annually to non-profit organizations in Western New York and Southwest Florida.

About Roberts Wesleyan University

Roberts Wesleyan University is New York’s leading university for character education. Committed to the development of the whole person, the institution is focused on student growth through Christ-centered education, transformational learning and service to others. With 1,579 students and a tradition of excellence since 1866, the university strives to inspire students to transform themselves and the world, and offers over 90 undergraduate, graduate and adult-degree completion programs taught by high-quality, supportive faculty. Roberts Wesleyan University also has two doctoral programs in clinical/school psychology and occupational therapy. Redhawks Athletics intercollegiate sports teams compete as members of NCAA Division II. For more information, visit

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