Springfield College prides itself on having a strong family-like connection, and this past weekend reinforced what Springfield is all about. Over one hundred alumni traveled from all parts of the country to come back to a place that many called – and still call – home. This took place at the Athletic Hall of Fame and Awards Dinner on Saturday night.
“It feels fantastic to be back. It is always fantastic,” stated the ever-enthusiastic Bob Pataky (‘57), one of six Athletic Hall of Fame inductees.
Every year alumnae and alumni are nominated and chosen to be selected for the Tarbell Medallion, Distinguished Alumni and Young Alumni awards, along with the Athletic Hall of Fame inductions. These awards were bestowed on Saturday at the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union.
All members of the Springfield College family, young and old, dressed in their nicest suits and dresses to prepare for a night of memories.
The event kicked off as Betty Mann (‘74), who served as the master of ceremonies, introduced the first award of the night. Erin Pac Blumert (‘03) received the Young Alumna award, an award “presented to a graduate in the tenth reunion class in recognition of professional excellence and outstanding service to the college, community, state, and or nation.” Pac, who now serves as a behavioral therapist, was also a bronze medalist on the 2010 Olympic USA women’s bobsled team.
“Springfield College has helped me to be a well-rounded individual by teaching me to be dedicated, hard-working, respectful, and to live a life that is nourishing for my spirit, mind and body,” stated Pac Blumert in a letter of acceptance.
Peter Helie (‘72) and Phyllis Lerner (‘71) were both recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna Awards. These awards are given to those who display professional excellence. Helie, despite his absence, was able to give a speech via video recording, while Lerner blew the crowd away with a heartfelt speech.
“There is one thing that I want us to think about, one thing that grabbed me to Springfield is that it was a tradition to greet people,” said Lerner. “Greeting people is the first level of acknowledgement …one of the things that I hope doesn’t happen is that as we are walking around with our smart phones and we have our heads down and we are texting that we stop acknowledging and greeting people. I would miss that. That connection is what this campus is all about.”
Athletic Hall of Fame recipient Donta Johnson turned his passion for basketball into his dream job by running clinics and sessions for young players hoping to make it big. He attributes Springfield to being a huge part of his current success.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates, coaches, friends and family, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am today…and I am very grateful,” Johnson said.
While the alumni stay heavily involved in the Springfield College family, many are shocked by the growing and continuous changes on campus.
“It is great [to be back]. I find the changes on campus are pretty interesting,” said Athletic Hall of Fame award recipient and renowned Springfield gymnast Tony Hall (‘77). “I was surprised about how the landscape of the campus has changed, particularly the buildings and walkways.”
The physical changes on the campus are apparent and spectacular, but while change is good, one thing remains the same for Springfield, and that is pride.
“I think that it is deeply meaningful for our alumni being awarded to be back at Springfield,” said Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Shannon O’Neil. “For some they’ve not been back to campus in three, five, 15 years. Many remark on the changes to campus, but [also] to the same Springfield College feeling that still exists here. I think it speaks to how special of a place Springfield is and why our alumni pride runs so deep.”
While the alumni reminisced about the old days, President Mary-Beth Cooper was there, trying to take in the overwhelming amount of love that the alumni have for their alma mater.
“The way people [at] Springfield [are] after their four or five years here is phenomenal,” stated Cooper. “The fact that people come back whether it is their reunion year or not is surprising.”
All in all the night was a success. Old friends gathered, memories were shared and those selected humbly received their well-earned awards.
As the dinner came to a close and the alumni got ready to leave, one thing was clear. What Springfield may lack in size, it makes up for in spirit.