Donors Reflect on Why They Support Wesleyan Athletics

Olivia DrakeFebruary 28, 20226min
men's cross country
Cal Neveau ’22 dons a cross country uniform purchased through Wesleyan Athletics Giving Day (WAGD). “We are incredibly grateful for the generous support we received for our student-athletes on Wesleyan Athletics Giving Day,” said Leo Mayo, cross country head coach. “The support we generated on this one day of giving will have a great impact on the opportunities and experiences we are able to provide our student-athletes going forward.”

Since Wesleyan Athletics relies on donations to account for more than 80 percent of its annual operational costs, fundraising is an important must-have to keep the Cardinals moving forward.

During Wesleyan’s seventh-annual Wesleyan Athletics Giving Day (WAGD) on Feb. 16, 2,153 donors made gifts to respective teams, which amounted to $411,944. The top three fundraising women’s teams were golf, volleyball, and softball, and the top three men’s teams were basketball, soccer, and wrestling.

“While these teams have earned all-important bragging rights and supplemental budget for their most critical needs, our entire Wesleyan Athletics family are winners thanks to your support and generosity,” said Karen Whalen, director of athletics giving. “Thank you for helping us provide student-athletes with opportunities to achieve, serve, and lead.”

Each of the 30 varsity sports offers students the opportunity to compete at the Division III level and to build tight-knit athletic communities.

Collegiate athletics are extremely important to Mike McKenna ’73. During his four years at Wes, McKenna played soccer and rugby. His late father-in-law, Alan Stevenson ’42, also was a Cardinal wrestler, and his two children also were varsity college athletes.McKenna, a former alumni-elected trustee and a current member of the Wesleyan Soccer Advisory Board, has supported the men’s and women’s teams since graduating. With men’s soccer preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2024, he and head coach Geoff Wheeler were pleased with the number of donations made during WAGD this month.

“I think that attests to the value many former players assign to their experience,” McKenna said. “Along with academics of course, I believe athletics are an important component to a complete education and the traditional values of learning teamwork, dealing with adversity, setting and working towards goals are all true. Plus it’s a lot of fun, and competing in NESCAC and The Little Three have provided lifelong friendships and memories.”

Like McKenna, WADG donor David Stone ’04 played soccer at Wesleyan. He also was the team captain. “Our athletics programs create one more opportunity for Wesleyan students to grow as people beyond the classroom,” Stone said. “It was a vital part of my experience at Wesleyan, and I want to help provide those same opportunities for our current and future student-athletes.”

Zabette Macomber ’88, who rowed all four years during her tenure at Wesleyan, is a regular donor to the crew program. This year, crew is hoping to purchase a new shell named after the Class of 2020.

“Collegiate sports are the moment in life when time, coaching, camaraderie and a high level of competition all collide—or at least it did for me. It was a golden four years that, even at the time, I recognized as precious and so fleeting,” she said. “I can only imagine how heartbreaking it was to not have a final (rowing) season but I can’t wait to hear how the reunion row is in their new boat,” she said.

Marisa Graziano P’19 and Rob Gorman P’19 also are frequent WAGD donors. Their daughter, Olivia Gorman ’19, played soccer, basketball, and softball as a student, where she was a 1,000 point scorer in basketball and a team captain of the basketball and softball team. Graziano and Gorman also sponsored team meals and events to help build camaraderie for the team and parents.

“We have supported and continue to support Wesleyan athletics since we know that Division III sports programs need external financial assistance to stay competitive and to also provide the best experience for the student-athletes,” Graziano said. “Collegiate athletics are very important as they help develop competencies and skills that will help our students be successful after graduation including communication, influencing without authority, collaboration, being resilient, decision-making, etc. And, most importantly, college athletics also support the health and wellness of our student athletes during and after their college experience.”

Although the 2022 WAGD is over, Wesleyan Athletics welcomes support through its Athletics Giving website.