Imbued with Spiritual Meaning and Architectural Wonder, Facility Honors a Remarkable Life
Gian Zumpano lived a remarkable life. Salutatorian of the Belen Jesuit class of 1986, his greatest achievement was his kindness towards others and his service for the poor. His life exemplified the school’s motto Men for Others. Years in the making, the Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center honors the beloved alumnus who fought gran mal epilepsy, yet passed away during his sleep at age 22. The cutting edge Olympic sized swimming complex at Belen Jesuit was blessed and inaugurated on Wednesday, June 6 at 5:30 p.m.
“This wonderful undertaking by Belen and the Zumpano family celebrates the life of our brother who touched so many,” said Joseph I. Zumpano, Esq. ‘87, Gian’s brother. “From its spiritual and architectural designs, to the philanthropic role it will play in the community, the Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center is a symbol of the Belen Jesuit values that Gian embraced.”
Hundreds of guests attended the event including Archbishop Thomas Wenski who will bless the Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center. Joining the Archbishop will be the Jesuit Fathers of Miami, led by Rev. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón, S.J.’87, Belen President and Rev. Alberto Garcia, S.J., Jesuit Superior of Miami.
Humble and selfless, Gian was the first born of five siblings. All three of Gian’s surviving brothers swam at Belen Jesuit, and all went on to swim for Harvard. In 1983, Gian and younger brother Joe, started the competitive swim team at Belen’s then-new campus. Joining them on the team were brothers Carlos (class of 1992) and Dan (class of 1991), their cousins and some friends. Their younger sister, Rosana, swam for Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, where she also competed at the state championship.
Thirty years later, Belen has won seven state championships under Coach Kirk Peppas who coached Gian and the Zumpano family swimmers.
The cutting-edge competition complex is an architectural, acoustic and interpretive feat. It is the first known facility of its kind designed in the Jesuit tradition. The Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center will be home to the Wolverines seven-time State Champion Swim Team (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, & 2013) and three-time State Champion Water Polo Team (2009, 2015, & 2016). It boasts both a state of the art competition pool and a learn-to-swim pool, used by the over 1,000 area children who attend Belen Summer Camp every year.
“The Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center embodies all that Gian Zumpano represented,” said Jesuit Father García-Tuñón. “His selflessness and generosity touched the community and Belen Jesuit. Gian was only a year older than me and was my friend. I am honored that this facility will memorialize a true Man for Others through the efforts of Gian’s family and friends.”
Architect Johnny Medina ‘77 infused Jesuit principles throughout the design. Entering the main gate, one is immersed in representations drawn from the Jesuit tradition. There are architectural elements symbolic of the Bible story of Jonah. A peace symbol on the back gate leads to the grotto honoring Gian. Thin blue stripes on off-white spectator stand canopies are reminiscent of the veil of St. Teresa of Calcutta. Looking up from the grotto, one sees the carve-out of a cross overhead where the sun’s rays reach down to the pool deck. The teaching pool also serves as a reflective pool, inspired by The Alhambra built in Granada, Andalucía, Spain, in AD 889.
Joe Zumpano summarized the vision and design of the facility by saying, “The Gian Zumpano Aquatic Center was not built merely for the pursuit of dreams. It was built so that our athletes can self-reflect on their faith and their lives in God.”
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School is located at 500 SW 127th Ave in Miami.
The Jesuits founded Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in 1854 in Havana, Cuba. In 1961, Belen and all private schools were confiscated by the new political regime. The School was re-established in Miami that same year and has grown over the last five decades. The school has a capacity of 1,500 male students in grades 6 to 12 and has over 6-thousand alumni. Belen Jesuit is one of the state’s best college preparatory schools and has annually been ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 Catholic high schools by The Cardinal Newman Society.