Introduction to the New Cummins Center

Faculty’s insight into all the new features of the Cummins Center


Ava Harrison, Contributor

The Bishop John S. Cummins Center, the newest O’Dowd building, opened just in time for the 2022 student orientation. This center has been built to provide a space for athletics, masses of the Holy Spirit, rallies, celebrations, and performing arts. The new building holds the Elizabeth Cabrall Cabraser ’70 Music Studio, the Kevin and Debora Sweeney Athletic Performance Lab, the Kelly Family and Erin Jaeb Black Box Studio, the Kovach Family Community Room, the Madden Family Terrace, the Counts Family Welcome Hall, and finally the Knauss Family Gymnasium. 

The Knauss Family Gym was built to hold the Steve Phelps memorial court. Steve Phelps started as a basketball coach for Joseph Lee playground in Hunters Point, then moved to teach and coach at Sacred Heart and St. Ignatius High School. In 2005, Steve Phelps became the president of Bishop O’Dowd, where he led many capital campaigns that financed over $20 million worth of campus renovations. Phelps was the visionary behind the Cummins Center. He passed away on December 26, 2017, at the age of 73. His legacy will forever be remembered.  

Coach Lou Richie, physical education teacher, basketball coach, advocate for human rights, and a dragon alum of ‘89 was very close to Steve Phelps. Steve Phelps was Coach Richie’s Godfather. 

Coach Richie shares, “I’ll never forget his first year here, he would come up to me and ask what that person’s name was. He took an interest in learning everyone’s name, and a lot of people don’t do that. His attention to detail was incredible.” He elaborates on his relationship with Steve Phelps: “For me, him being my Godfather was very, very special. Having him around, we would talk. I still have his number memorized. He would call me, or I would call him. Usually, he would call me on his way home to talk about the school, new ideas he had, how we can improve the school, and how the basketball team was going to be, so those were the things that made him special and why he’s missed.” 

Coach Richie and the rest of the O’Dowd community will forever remember Steve Phelps and all the love he brought to the Dragon Family. 

Coach Richie’s favorite thing about the New Center is driving in to work in the morning and seeing it from the outside. He also loves the view from the third floor and looking out onto the field. 

Kim Walsh, Chief of Campus Planning and Development at O’Dowd, says her favorite part of the new center is, “The ‘Steve Phelps Court’ – that will not only propel O’Dowd athletes to higher heights, but will also accommodate the entire school to gather as one for Masses and assemblies, further strengthening what O’Dowd is known for – our amazing, diverse and inclusive Catholic community.” The dream behind the New Center was to build a place for community and inclusion. When asked to use one word to describe the building she said, “Light! The building was designed to optimize all of the beautiful views and light. The stained glass art in the stairwell is entitled ‘You are the Light of the World’. It’s hard to enter the building and not feel the powerful and uplifting light and joy and hope that it brings!”

Mrs. Counts, O’Dowd’s librarian 18 years, welcomes the school to the Counts Family Welcome Hall. Her favorite part of the New Center is, “I no longer have to figure out when I get to attend Mass. Seriously, my favorite part is we all get to be together in one spot. I loved the Mass, the sports rally and can’t wait to experience Spirit Week in the Center.” Mrs. Counts’ one word to describe the new building is “Community!”

The Athletic Performance Lab is where Coach Beito will reside, O’Dowd’s outstanding strength and conditioning coordinator. He welcomes student-athletes of all levels to join him in mobility and strength training. The weight room includes state-of-the-art equipment and sport medicine resources to accommodate over 3,000 student visits per year. Coach Beito says his one word to describe the New Center is, “OUTSTANDING – what an incredible space to build community and create meaningful BOD memories!” 

Furthermore, the Elizabeth Cabrall Cabraser ’70 Music Studio is where band and orchestra meets and practices for performances. 

The Kelly Family and Erin Jaeb Black Box Studio is where drama class meets and performs plays. It houses a minimal cast and set. The O’Dowd theater department and drama classes plan to use it to perform monologues. Mrs. Loewinsohn, Art Teacher & Department Chair, says she’s most excited to finally have a place to welcome theater students. They will have more space with new lighting and full of mirrors. 

All these new additions on campus will bring new beginnings, growth, and excitement to the Bishop O’Dowd community.