A new initiative is giving Lynchburg supporters the chance to help update five athletics facilities on campus. “Five for the Hive” includes improvements to Turner Gymnasium; Shellenberger, Moon, and Fox fields; as well as the current tennis courts.
Alumna Gillian Smith Stoettner ’91 is excited to help. Along with her husband, Rob, the former softball player has given $100,000 to make sure current and future student-athletes have a stellar experience at Lynchburg.
“Education happens everywhere — in a classroom or on a sports field,” Stoettner said. “Athletics are what I call the ‘social side’ of education, which to me is just as important as traditional classroom work. Therefore, I am giving my gift this year to Five for the Hive, to help enhance and update our athletic facilities.”
Athletics are indeed a crucial part of the Lynchburg experience. As many as 945 students currently participate in varsity, club, or intramural programs. Among new students, 40 to 45% are recruited through the athletic program. More than 15% of Lynchburg students are varsity athletes, and they graduate at a rate that is 15% higher than for other students.
It’s why the Board of Trustees approved updates totaling $2.5 million at its October 2019 meeting. Long-term plans for more comprehensive renovations of Turner Gymnasium are in the works, as is a complete replacement of the aging Wake Field House.
Immediate and future updates combined will “provide a championship-level experience for our student-athletes, students, alumni and fans. As an alumna, Gillian has been a wonderful volunteer and supporter. She truly understands how this initiative will change the fan experience at Lynchburg,” Senior Vice President for Advancement Mike Bonnette said.
A $150,000 grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation will match $75,000 in gifts for “Five for the Hive” on Give Day, April 9. The other half is allotted to the Hobbs-Sigler Hall renovations.
Specifically, “Five for the Hive” will support a new video board and pavilion enclosure for Shellenberger Field, which hosts soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and track-and-field events. Moon Field, where softball is played, will see upgraded dugouts, new bullpens, a new press box, and individual seating.
Renovations to baseball’s Fox Field will include new accessible seating compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Turf and lights are part of the next phase. Improvements to Turner Gymnasium will focus on modernized seating that is ADA-compliant.
Finally, “Five for the Hive” will also support updates and renovations to Lynchburg’s tennis courts.
“Five for the Hive will allow us to engage alumni and community partners in a new and exciting way as we work together to craft a vision for elevating the Lynchburg experience to the highest levels of DIII success,” athletics director Jon Waters said.
“Our alumni have helped us set incredibly high standards here on Lakeside Drive. We are excited about the opportunity to raise the level of our facilities to match that excellence — and to connect with future generations of Hornets for decades to come.”
Ultimately, it’s about more than athletics for Stoettner, who graduated with a degree in early childhood education. It’s about the whole experience, and about giving back to an institution she values.
“I want to see the school continue to flourish because my experiences and education from the University of Lynchburg remain priceless,” Stoettner said.
She still remembers seeing campus for the first time.
“Lynchburg was in my top five schools because it was the right size, and I liked its location on the East Coast,” she recalled. “On the day that I had my tour, it was raining [but] you could still feel the spirit of the school as we drove up the driveway. The size of the campus was not overwhelming and was contained on one big chunk of land. It was, and still is, uncomplicated and friendly. I had an instant understanding of what I was walking into.”
It was a place she could call home — not just because of its spirit, but because of the family she found on the softball team, and the faculty she still remembers vividly to this day.
“The teacher with the strongest, longest-lasting impact on me is Dr. Ken West, who taught my Educational Psychology class,” Stoettner said. “I didn’t get a good grade the first time around, so I signed up for his class again. I was very embarrassed walking back into his class. However, Dr. West [simply] said, “Welcome back.” That one thoughtful comment took my embarrassment and stress right away.
“[He] didn’t just teach a class, he wove values into everything he did, and I am forever grateful for my time under his instruction.”
In fact, Stoettner still has all of the paperwork she completed for his class. A note from West on one of them reads:
“Look at this! Under pressure, you make a perfect score. You’re a fun and feisty person. You’ve enriched this class & I thank you for making my semester a better one. KW”
It may have been 30 years since the note was written, but it could have been today. Stoettner’s experience at Lynchburg lives on in so many students like her — and in professors like West.
To join Gillian Stoettner in giving to our “Five for the Hive” campaign, visit lynchburg.edu/five. Also, save the date for Give Day on April 9!