Drexel University’s Office of Veteran Student Services and other Drexel community members gathered June 27 to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the Veterans Lounge which recently underwent renovations.
The new Veterans Lounge opened April 1 and is located on the lower level of the Creese Student Center near the Commuter Lounge and the Student Organization Resource Center. Prior to April 1, the lounge was located in the old Drexel Armory building at 3205 Lancaster Avenue.
The renovation project, which allowed for upgrades to increase comfort in the new Veterans Lounge since its initial opening April 1, was made possible by a donation from Drexel University alumnus and U.S. Army veteran, Thomas A. Masci, Jr., Class of 1968.
Masci, who was an accounting student at Drexel, went on to co-found and serve as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Health Advocate, Inc., a healthcare advocacy company. And, in the years since his graduation, Masci has continued to support Drexel University, including funding the new lounge.
“As far as ‘Drexel’ and ‘veterans,’ those are two words that are very dear to me,” Masci said. “Being so veteran-friendly [at Drexel], when I found out that they were looking for a new sponsor [for the lounge], [I said] sign me up.”
The renovated Veterans Lounge, which features both comfortable seating and traditional tables with chairs, walls full of patriotic artistic displays, and a section with campus resources, is intended as a central gathering place for Drexel’s large student veteran population.
“It is one of Drexel University’s greatest points of pride to be the university of choice for more than 1,000 student veterans and military dependents and to be recognized among the United States’ most military-friendly schools,” President John Fry wrote in a statement that was presented at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This inviting new home, … dedicated to our student veterans, is an important extension of our longstanding commitment to support the … success of women and men who have given so much to our country.”
President Fry noted that making the new lounge a reality — through the dedication and generosity of a veteran and alumnus — should come as no surprise. That’s just what Dragons do.
While Masci’s donation was financially instrumental in renovating the new Veterans Lounge, the entire project was championed by a large team effort. One of the key players was Dr. Rebecca Weidensaul, Assistant Vice President of Student Life.
“Dr. Weidensaul, and her team in Student Life, [have been] instrumental in this process,” student veteran Andrew Stoffer said. “[They] have been some of the biggest supporters and advocates throughout this process and they all hold a special place in my heart.”
Stoffer explained the importance of the new lounge for student veterans — it serves as a place to leave class, to relax and to ease stress. But, most of all, it’s a space where student veterans can connect with one another. That’s what is most valuable.
“I’ll always carry … burdens with me, but because of the support … I get [at the Veterans Lounge], I know whenever [the burdens] get too heavy, I’ll have a place to go and someone who I can turn to,” Stoffer said. “So, when I look around this room, I see more than four walls and a door — I see a family. A family that’s committed to one another, a family that supports one another, a family that has [done] and would do anything for one another. And, for some of us, this is the only family we have left.”
From Masci’s family, who was present to support at the ribbon-cutting, to the student-veteran group that is beyond grateful for the new lounge, to the entire Drexel community who helped execute the entire project — it is clear that the theme of “family” is woven into the fabric of the Veterans Lounge. It is one of the hallmarks that makes the new space so special.
“Sometimes, when we walk through the doors [to the Veterans Lounge], we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders,” Stoffer said. “But when we leave here, we always feel a little more confident, a little more determined, and, at the very least, we leave with a smile on our face because we got to see a friend.”