Bridges, Building A Wall
BY MIKE MUSKA
It is exciting to think that a climbing wall may only be months away, and I would like to thank the many people involved in helping make this a reality. Last week’s article in the Review did much of that, which I will not repeat, but it is important that we place the climbing wall in the context of the bigger picture.
I was reminiscing last night with Russian History Professor Heather Hogan, who co-chaired the search committee when I was hired, that I raised three issues of immediate concern before I was hired. I recognized the issue of Title IX and the responsibility of a new athletic director to add softball as a varsity sport. We discussed making Jones Field House a healthier environment from the dust bowl that it was, and the ability to create a space that could be used for hours on end by all sports and clubs. We discussed recreational needs, and under the leadership of Recreation Director Betsy Bruce, we have expanded hours, added equipment and the reality of the climbing wall opens the center for use by another group of Oberlin students.
Making any one of these first three projects a reality did not come without hard work and effort from many individuals. I remember then junior Jami Silver coming to see me during my first year here with a dream of playing varsity softball before she graduated. She lobbied me, did a Winter Term project collecting research, lobbied the Faculty Committee on Athletics and organized a vibrant club team to demonstrate to all that Oberlin was ready to field such a program. With faculty approval, we moved forward.
Building a field required a financial commitment, and the Heisman Club, originally formed to support intercollegiate football, stepped up to the plate with a generous gift that the College responded to, and through these combined efforts, the Mary Culhane Field was dedicated in 2000 and varsity softball became a reality for Silver’s senior year. Silver is now teaching at the Loomis-Chaffee School in Connecticut and coaching this spring.
Turfing the field house was just as important and I personally thank President Nancy Dye and Dean of Arts and Sciences Clayton Koppes for putting up with me and for putting the dust bowl to rest. Those who are juniors and seniors remember how the dust would rise by early evening, and that watering the dust just created mud. Though certain alums might have rather torn down the building, we put a facility to good use for a fraction of the cost, and the lights in Jones stay on until late into the night for use by many different programs.
The story of the wall is another case in point of making connections for the general welfare of the College community. It is appropriate that I write this weekend as members of the executive board of the Alumni Council return to campus. In my first fall at Oberlin, I met with the Alumni Council to challenge them to take a look at our program from any direction they so desired, and to give us input as to projects they perceived as important. A task force was then established under the leadership of former Alumni Council President Danette Wineberg.
A bit of history from a former history major might help as well. Over the years there had been a strained relationship between the Alumni Council and the Heisman Club, in part stemming from the desire of the Heisman Club to maintain its autonomy. A major piece of the success of that fall was the addition of the incoming Heisman Club President, Todd Houston, and a former varsity athlete, Richard Bailey, to this group. It was an important step in bringing the two groups together.
What was exciting about the task force was that it was made up of Conservatory and College graduates, old and young, male and female, who looked at our program in the wider context of wellness, facility needs that might benefit all students and even how to better publicize what has happened. Oberlin people spoke and the task force listened.
Professor Roger Laushman of the biology department can better relate the many years of frustration that students had encountered in their desire to build a climbing wall. I heard much of it after I arrived. But students spoke to the task force and Bailey listened. Through the combined gift from Bailey and the College, another group of Oberlin students, just like Silver, will have their dreams fulfilled.
I thank Bruce for bugging Nicros and getting the final plans in place, Mike Will and Sal Filardi for keeping the time-line moving for fall, and the many students over the years for their belief, enthusiasm and patience. Their efforts were not in vain, even iftheir goals weren’t achieved during their time here. This wall may be dedicated to Bailey, but it involves many others who dreamed this day might come.
So when you walk through the main lobby of Philips in the years ahead, perhaps you will think of the many people who formed an alliance to put that wall where it will be. And you might mention to the Admissions tour passing by that by working as a community that includes students, both past and present, faculty, staff and administration, a collective voice working together can make dreams a reality at Oberlin.
Houlihan Heads To NCAA Championship
Loses One, Wins One
Looks For Offense to Lead The Way
Bridges, Building A Wall