Photo courtesy of Tribe Athletics
According to senior Tribe basketball player Brooke Stewart ’16, her time at William & Mary has molded her into the person she is today. It has given her access to a great academic experience and the chance to be a part of the special community that makes up William & Mary. But it wasn’t easy for Stewart to get here. “I am the youngest of four children and my scholarship was the key factor in my being able to continue my education in Williamsburg,” Stewart says. “It gives me the opportunity to do what I love — play basketball at the highest level, and get a great education.”
For many William & Mary students like Stewart, athletics is an important part of their college experience. From hard work to teamwork, student-athletes learn as much on the field as they do off. The Tribe Athletics Department wants to make sure this continues, but it won’t be easy.
According to William & Mary Director of Athletics Terry Driscoll, there have been changes to the landscape of college athletics in recent years and financial pressures have escalated. Tribe Athletics currently sponsors more varsity sports than any other member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). And while William & Mary has won more CAA championships since the conference’s inception than any other school, that success comes at a price. The athletic fee paid by each William & Mary student to help fund varsity athletics is already the fourth-highest among all public universities in Virginia. Last summer, a working group led by Driscoll set out to outline a roadmap of success for Tribe Athletics in the face of these pressures. Their report was released in April.
The Committee on Competitive Excellence, which includes staff, alumni and faculty representatives, evaluated a number of aspects of Tribe Athletics, including facilities, finance, human resources, admissions and financial aid, marketing and media, and fan experience.
The report is about being strategic with limited resources, mapping a vision for the future and affirming William & Mary’s identity as a university where athletes can be exceptional students and be a part of a championship experience.
“William & Mary ranks among the nation’s elite academic institutions,” Driscoll says. “Tribe Athletics should aspire to the same level of excellence. The time has come to define a vision for the future and move confidently towards it.”
The report, titled “A Championship Experience for Every Student-Athlete and Every Fan,” details funding needs for scholarships, operating expenses and facility improvements as well as enhancements to streamline current policies and practices, including improving the game-day experience for fans.
A key part of meeting these needs is an increase in private philanthropy.
“Already, donors to W&M athletics have been far more generous than those of any other CAA school,” says William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. “To do what’s sketched in the report will require an even more serious commitment from alumni and alumnae who believe strongly in the value and potential of Tribe athletics.”
The past year has already seen many such alumni step up. Last August, two $6 million gifts, one from Hunter J. Smith ’51 and the other from James W. ’62, J.D. ’64, LL.D. ’00 and Frances G. McGlothlin ’66, enabled the university to move forward with construction to enhance the 79-year-old Zable Stadium. This year, John Dawkins ’51 donated another $2 million for the renovation.
“The planned changes are designed to enhance what is already a beautiful facility,” Smith says. “It will be wonderful to watch this campus treasure transform into a state-of-the-art gathering place where fans enjoy coming together as a community to support William & Mary football.”
Once complete, the renovated stadium will have improved safety and accessibility features including wider aisles, renovation of existing restrooms and additional facilities, improved egress lighting, an upgraded sound system, additional concession and retail locations, and a new entrance and ticketing location.
In May, Athletics announced the construction of the Plumeri Indoor Baseball Practice Facility, thanks to a gift by Joseph Plumeri ’66, D.P.S. ’11. “The practice center will greatly enhance our player development opportunities and will allow us to practice more efficiently in all weather conditions,” says head coach Brian Murphy. “This commitment to Tribe Baseball will also help us continue to attract quality student-athletes, as it is one more reason why it is great to be a part of Tribe Baseball.”
Also this past year, Sue Gerdelman ’76 and husband John ’75 made a $3 million commitment to support Athletics, including a football scholarship endowment and funds for the Tribe Club. An anonymous donor contributed $1.6 million to Athletics.
To help attract and retain promising student-athletes in the Tribe football program, Rich ’65 and Carole Kraemer established a $1.2 million scholarship endowment in May. They created the endowment to honor two former William & Mary football players who have been among the most loyal Tribe fans over the last several decades — Richard E. Korns ’68 and Michael G. Weaver ’66, M.Ed. ’70.
“Dick and Mike came to William & Mary because a football scholarship was offered to them,” says Kraemer. “During their time at the College and after graduation, football has always been an important part of their lives. I am happy to recognize their commitment to education and William & Mary.”
The Kraemers’ gift announcement came on the heels of Athletics receiving a $3.5 million commitment from Terry Thompson ’67 for student-athlete scholarships. A significant portion of this commitment supports scholarships for student-athletes participating in the women’s basketball program. It was the largest gift ever given to women’s basketball from a single donor.
“I hope my gift inspires other former players to take the time to learn what the needs truly are and find a way to make their own impact.”
Thompson served on the Committee of Competitive Excellence. During her time helping to shape the report, she gained a much deeper understanding of the need for increased support for the Tribe Athletics Program. It also reaffirmed her original belief that, at its core, William & Mary continues to do athletics “the right way.”
“I have always believed that athletics is a core part of William & Mary’s liberal arts mission,” says Thompson. “To me, academics and athletics go hand-in-hand and I am passionate about seeing both areas of our university continue to move forward at the highest level. We are not only going to need continued, and improved, support from all our longtime athletics donors, but also find ways to educate and motivate a new generation of donors.”
To read the report, click here.