It’s been over fifteen years since my wife and I first proposed building a proper field hockey field for the Lafayette College Field Hockey Team. Giving away money we found was not the easiest task, when at times it came in conflict with other perceived priorities. We had already given a six figure gift to fund the VAST program, a program devoted to melding STEM courses and the liberal arts.
When we first approached the college, the reaction from the highest level at the time was… why. “No one really goes to field hockey games,” was one retort. Another was ” We have other priorities.” Or there was the one, “No one wants an artificial turf field!” We persisted and in the interim, also endowed a chair in the neuroscience department.
Today, all that is left of that philanthropy is the field hockey field. The VAST program has disappeared and there has not been a professor appointed to the chair we endowed for the last six years. Today, the field hockey team has won 3 Patriot League Championships, has been ranked as high as seventh in Division One nationally, and regularly its players are feted with all region, all American and best female athletes at Lafayette. Despite the ignorant utterances of that same official, the games now attracts between 200 and 400 people a game.
One facet of the facility that has always bothered me was the bathroom conveniences. I was assured at the outset, that there would be facilities. Yes there was, a single unisex bathroom that is required to service a crowd of up to 400 with the same thing in mind at half time and during tailgates. I have complained about it to no avail, despite the fact that funding was available for construction of additional facilities. Several years ago, a group of us got together to demand a change, and low and behold green port-a-potties appeared.
I was still not satisfied, and arranged for funding for portable bathroom trailers. The powers that be, refused to authorize the expenditure even though the funding was arranged. I can recall standing alongside a senior athletic administration official while pointing out the long lines outside the single toilet as he quipped, “maybe we could charge for use of the toilets.”
Three weeks ago my wife and I were delighted to meet with Sherryta Freeman the new athletic director at Lafayette. My ask was to allow for a new bathroom trailer in the upcoming field hockey season. Happily she agreed when I said I could raise the money, while Josh Azer Executive Director of the Maroon Club, listened and took notes. I have since talked with the athletic facilities manager and he is appraised and working to make it happen to be there before the first home game on Sept 7. With our guarantee and support, we will join the rest of the Patriot League with reasonable facilities. Embarrassed no more!!!
This whole saga may seem absurd, but illustrates the cement bureaucracies can get stuck into. Years ago we decided to concentrate our philanthropy to our living years to see its results. It has been satisfying to see our wonderful team participate at high level division one hockey at Rappolt Field. We were disappointed to see the two other academic programs we endowed of equal cost, fade away within 10 years of their inception.
I think Ms. Freeman will be a positive for the college and its students. This may be a small gesture, but based on our conversation three weeks ago and my perception of progress, we are encouraged.