His Excellency Archbishop Tomas Wenski, Fr. Richard Vigoa, Jesuit fathers, Zumpano Family, benefactors, friends…
I was blessed to have known Gian Zumpano. Just one year ahead of me at Belen, there was not a day that I did not see him walk out of the chapel after morning mass; not a day that I did not see him speaking with Father Ripoll, Father Izquierdo or Father Eddy. I know that oftentimes after death one tends to paint a glorious picture of an individual. Maybe it is the sorrow one feels for the death of someone you know. Maybe it is the fear of what they will say about you when you die. But I can honestly tell you that it is neither sorrow nor fear that motivates the praise one can have for Gian Zumpano. He truly and most sincerely was authentically good, religious, charitable, and kind. Gian was truly a son of Belen, a true man for others.
I remember the time I was on a day of retreat. Gian spoke about his personal faith journey and encouraged us to focus on strengthening our bonds with each other and with God. How can you not listen? Smart and athletic, he captivated your attention and respect, not only with what he said, but with how he lived.
It is for this reason that dedicating this aquatic center to his memory is so fitting. Not simply because his family and numerous benefactors have worked hard to make sure that his name is engraved on its walls, but because in life and death, he is a testament to what Belen Jesuit strives for…. the formation of Catholic men in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola. We would like every person who walks up these stairs, circles this deck, jumps in this pool and plays in these waters to know that they do so in an aquatic center dedicated to the memory of an exemplary man.
Future generations will learn to swim here and future generations will be trained in sports like swimming and water polo, sports that have set high standards, not only in the state of Florida, but in the nation.
This endeavor was a dream that was floating around for a long time. Now that dream has become a reality. There are too many people that need to be thanked and I am sure that Phil will cover most of them. However, I must acknowledge Joey Zumpano, his family, and all the benefactors who generously gave to this project. Where would we be if not for you?
Throughout the construction process, the committee in charge of overseeing the project had some “only in Belen” moments. For example, architect Johnny Medina and Athletic Director Carlos Barquín had, what I can only call, “epic battles”. I assure you that these were as entertaining as any water polo or swimming state championship. At the end of the day, when the dust settled, it was easy to realize that both of them hold Belen close to their hearts.
I would be remiss not to thank Phil Fernandez and the Advancement staff, as well as Rick Echeverria and his staff for their hard work and dedication. Not only can you revel in taking part of such an important project, but you will not have to deal with Joey for a long time.
God has been good to Belen. Not simply because we can build and take advantage of such a beautiful structure such as this, but also for blessing us with a man like Gian Zumpano whose life has inspired us to continue striving for greatness.