They came to praise Bruce Rasmussen, not to bury him.
There were times, though, during Tuesday's dedication of the sports and fitness center that bears his name that the Creighton athletic director might have been tempted to check, as he might put it, whether he was still vertical or permanently horizontal.
“Athletic directors are not used to having things like that said about them,” said Rasmussen, referring to the glowing praise that came from multiple speakers at the 55-minute dedication ceremony. “It was nice and I'm honored, but it was still very awkward.
“Just as it is a little awkward to be still employed at Creighton and to walk across campus and see a building named after your wife.”
If Rasmussen would have had his way, the new 50,000-foot facility would have anyone's name but his plastered across the main entrance. But the primary donors — Omahans Bill and Ruth Scott and their family — insisted that the building be named for Rasmussen, who has spent the past 19 of his 33 years at Creighton as the school's athletic director.
Ron Gartlan, a member of Creighton's board of trustees, told the crowd of about 500 that gathered for the dedication that Rasmussen had been vehemently opposed to having the building named after him.
“He lobbied Bill and (son) John Scott very hard to come up with another name for this building,” Gartlan said. “The Scotts persevered.”
The $11.9 million facility houses a multipurpose field house with synthetic turf for intramural sports and athletic team practices, a suspended two-lane running track, and a fitness area furnished with cardio, circuit-training and free-weight equipment.
Located just east of the Ryan Center, which serves as home for most of the school's athletic department, the Rasmussen Center will provide east-campus fitness opportunities for Creighton students and staff.
“It will take fitness and health to a new level for all of us,” said the Rev. Timothy Lannon, Creighton's president. “We thank everyone who helped make this building a possibility.”
Lannon said he was delighted that the donors saw fit to name the building after Rasmussen.
“He's one of a kind,” Lannon said. “He's committed to student-athletes, to coaches, to Creighton and the mission of this great university. He shows that commitment every day.”
Gartlan, who said he's known Rasmussen for about 30 years, praised the athletic director for the mark he's made on Creighton and its athletic program.
“He's one of the finest athletic directors in the country,” Gartlan said. “But there is more to Bruce than that. In my opinion, Bruce Rasmussen is the epitome of what Creighton University stands for.”
In his remarks Tuesday, Rasmussen thanked the Scotts and other donors who helped make the building a reality. He choked up a bit when he talked about the support he receives from his wife, Jill, and his children, from his staff and coaches, from Creighton's student-athletes, and from the administration, faculty and staff.
In a interview after the ceremony, Rasmussen said he was honored to have his name on the building because “it is a great facility.”
“It's going to help our students, faculty and staff,” Rasmussen said. “It's going to help our baseball, softball and soccer teams. At first, I wasn't comfortable having my name on the building.
“But the Scott family felt they wanted my name on it, and I'm comfortable with that.”
The crowd also discovered one of Rasmussen's talents that he has kept well hidden for four decades. Rasmussen joined Bill and John Scott in playing trumpet on several songs that were a part of the program. They were accompanied by the Creighton pep band.
Rasmussen said he played the trumpet in high school but guessed that he hadn't played in public for 40 to 45 years.
Bill Scott plays with a small group when he spends time in Palm Springs, Calif. Rasmussen did refuse one of Scott's requests.
“He also asked me to sing,” Rasmussen said. “Bill is very persuasive, and he's hard to say no to. But no amount of persuasion — or alcohol — will convince me to sing in front of any group, let alone this group.”
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/PivOWH