Donors give $1.4M toward new W&M field hockey facility

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The gifts will be used to finance a multi-use building at Busch Field, the home of the Tribe field hockey program. (Courtesy photo)
The gifts will be used to finance a multi-use building at Busch Field, the home of the Tribe field hockey program. (Courtesy photo)

Four generous William & Mary donors recently made a combined gift of $1.4 million benefiting women’s athletics. The gifts will be used to finance a multi-use building at Busch Field, the home of the Tribe field hockey program. 

Cathy Bessant, John Clay, honorary alumna Millie West and Tracy Leinbach ’81 have all played leading roles in supporting the construction of this project — officially known as the Century Project at Busch Field. The building is slated to break ground in 2018, which fittingly coincides with the 100-year anniversary of coeducation at William & Mary. 

“This is, first and foremost, a significant and tangible asset in the ongoing effort to raise the competitiveness of the field hockey program and the importance of private support for the future of Tribe field hockey,” said Director of Athletics Terry Driscoll. “We are extraordinarily grateful for the philanthropic leadership of the donors who have made this possible.”

The facility will be adjacent to the AstroTurf competition site at Busch Field and will overlook the Millie West Tennis Facility. It will include the field hockey locker room, meeting space, public restrooms, a video tower and an observation deck. The deck will be an ideal location to watch games and host special events. 

“Field hockey is a sport that has been popular all over the world, and William & Mary has a very competitive program,” Bessant said. “Field hockey needs a facility that will enable the university to better attract and recruit top-notch women athletes and increase the caliber of the university’s facilities.”

The impact of this project will be tangible and crucial in helping the program achieve the goals stated in the Committee on Competitive Excellence Report, which is to provide necessary resources for every student-athlete to have a championship experience during their time on campus. It also represents a significant sign of the university’s commitment to the program as it aims to attract top student-athletes. 

“This project will complete the Busch Field facility and place it on par with those of other top Division I programs,” said Peel Hawthorne ’80, associate athletics director and former coach of the program. “As one of the original three sports for women at the university, it is very fitting that field hockey would be the primary beneficiary of this gift. This is an enduring commitment to the strong legacy of women’s athletics at William & Mary.”  

The university needs to secure a total of $2.4 million to complete this project. The donors have combined forces to raise the remaining funds needed to construct the building through a challenge — named in honor of West — and have agreed to match every dollar given to the project, up to $1 million by 2020.

Millie West spent 50 years working for William & Mary Athletics as a tennis coach, administrator and fundraiser. West was the first director of women’s athletics before the men’s and women’s programs merged. Beyond her contributions of time and talent, West has also lent significant financial support to a wide range of causes. The university recognized these contributions in the spring of 2010 by naming the tennis facility adjacent to Busch Field in her honor.

“I saw there was a need and that’s where I wanted to lend my support,” West said. “I firmly believe in opportunities for women across the board and quality facilities are no exception. I want to extend this challenge to all our alumni and supporters of women’s athletics at William & Mary. This is a great opportunity to make a statement about our commitment to support our female student-athletes and make a lasting and positive impact on our programs.”

Bessant and Clay served as members on the university’s Parent and Family Council. Bessant is the chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America. Their daughter, Meredith Clay ’18, is currently a William & Mary student and a member of the Tribe Field Hockey team.

Leinbach had a Hall of Fame career for the Tribe as a member of the women’s golf team. She is in the W&M Athletics Hall of Fame as both a member of the 1981 AIAW National Championship squad and as an individual. After graduation, she had a successful business career which included her serving as the chief financial officer and executive vice president of a Fortune 500 company, Ryder System, Inc. Leinbach also served on the William & Mary Foundation Board. Each of the donors has generously given other gifts to the university in the past.     

“This gift is an example of a strong and essential commitment in ensuring that our athletes have the best facilities to support their abilities,” said Sue Hanna Gerdelman ’76, For the Bold campaign chair. “William & Mary has a remarkable women’s field hockey team and these generous gifts further demonstrate how important they are to the university.”