West Windsor, N.J. – On March 24, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) hosted a ceremony to honor one of its greats, Robert Pugh, who retired last year after 46 years as an MCCC faculty member and coordinator of Health and Physical Education.
The dedication and ribbon cutting for the Robert L. Pugh Fitness Center drew a packed house of family and friends, some who came from as far away as West Virginia.
As observed by numerous speakers at the ceremony, Pugh did not just talk the talk. He did indeed walk the walk. Most days at Mercer, you will still find him working out in the Fitness Center or taking a brisk walk around the campus.
Serving as master of ceremonies was John Simone, Assistant Dean of Athletics and Student Development. He recalled that Mercer recognized the need for a fitness center for students and staff as early as 1980, not long after the West Windsor Campus opened. By 1999, the school had outgrown its first fitness center and broke ground on an addition to the Physical Education Building, where the current center stands.
“Over all those years, Bob was the heart and soul of the fitness center and of the promotion of health and wellness at Mercer,” Simone said.
Thanks to a 2018 fundraising campaign in Pugh’s name, the college has been able to furnish the center with 15 new pieces of equipment, including weight and cardio machines. Two new televisions are on order and the final cardio piece will be delivered this summer. Other renovations include new, shock resistant flooring and new lighting.
MCCC President Jianping Wang was all smiles during her comments. “It is a true tribute to you, Bob, that so many people are here today to recognize your contribution to this college and to call you their friend. We are grateful for your continued presence on our campus,” she said.
Professor of Mathematics Art Schwartz also spoke. “Bob is not just ‘Mr. Fitness.’ He has helped thousands of students, physically and mentally, through exercise,” Schwartz said. “You’ve heard others refer to Bob as a brother. I am his 'older college brother.’ I want you to know, little brother, that we look up to you. You have united us.”
Schwartz noted that this is the first time that a site on the campus has been named after a faculty member.
Others who spoke about Pugh included Professor Emeritus Frank Rivera (Fine Arts), childhood friend Madeline Greene, who came to the ceremony from West Virginia with her husband, Bob, and current men’s basketball coach Howard Levy, who said Pugh has been a great resource to him during his ten years as a Mercer coach.
When it was Pugh’s turn to address the group, he drew laughter and applause as he spoke in his understated style. “A true friend is someone who is here today, but would rather be somewhere else, so thank you all for coming,” he said. He credited his wife, Brenda, with being his rock, and shared the joy he has had in raising his three daughters and spending time with his sons-in-law and grandchildren, all of whom were in attendance.
With the naming of the Fitness Center and the hanging of a plaque that lists donors to date, Pugh emphasized how gratifying it is to know that he will always be part of Mercer. “I have attended many ceremonies where tributes are in memoriam,” he reflected. “My mother used to say, ‘Give me flowers now, not when I am gone.’ Today, you have given me my flowers.”
Following the formal program, the group moved to the Fitness Center, where the plaque and the new pieces of equipment were unveiled.
Donations are still being accepted for ongoing renovations and maintenance. For more information, visit www.mccc.edu/fitnesscenter or call John Simone at 609-570-3740.