Fundraising effort ‘will impact every student and team’
By Rhea Hirshman
Architectural renderings by Perkins Eastman
Peter Duncan ’81, P’13, ’14 is straightforward when asked about his time as a Trinity College student-athlete: “It’s really simple,” he says. “My experience with Trinity College athletics was exceptional, and it was made that way not only by my teammates but also by the coaching staff.”
The former member of Trinity’s men’s lacrosse and ice hockey teams (and a captain of ice hockey) stayed connected with the programs throughout the years following his graduation. He says he was pleased “many moons later,” when daughter Hadley Duncan ’13 played field hockey and lacrosse for the Bantams. “I was really happy to see firsthand that Trinity athletics hadn’t changed,” he says. “If you look at the entire athletic department, with very modest means, they are sure and steady, get incredible results, and produce really good people.”
Duncan, president and CEO of the commercial real estate firm George Comfort & Sons, and Elissa Raether Kovas ’93, who runs her own clothing company, Shellkare, have stepped forward to lead an ambitious fundraising campaign for Trinity athletics, which aims to raise $65 million by the college’s bicentennial in 2023. That figure comprises $35 million for facilities modernization, including additions to and renovations of the Ferris Athletic Center and upgrades to Jessee/Miller Field and Robin L. Sheppard Field; $25 million to endow the athletics program; and $5 million in annual giving (to cover annual costs until the endowment is fully vested).
“We have remarkably engaged alumni, best-in-class coaches, and exceptional student-athletes,” says Drew Galbraith, Trinity’s director of athletics. “Building upon our rich tradition, we can create a model NCAA Division III athletics program to adapt to the future of higher education.
“In every sport, our student-athletes bring recognition to the college with their efforts in the classroom, on the field, and in the Hartford community,” he adds. “By enhancing our athletics facilities, investing in our athletic endowments, and transforming our approach to student wellness, this campaign will impact every student and team at Trinity.”
Galbraith notes that endowing the athletics program is a key part of the campaign. “Our coaches serve as teachers, mentors, recruiters, and role models,” he says. “By creating an endowment for athletics, we can remove the burden of fundraising from them and let them concentrate their talents on the field, on the court, and in the classroom.”
Bill Luby ’81 played Trinity football for four years but concedes he was “mediocre at best” on the field. Yet, three decades after graduation, Luby, a founding partner of the private equity firm Seaport Capital, remains deeply devoted to the Bantam football team—which won the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship three of the past four seasons—as a donor and ardent supporter of head coach Jeff Devanney ’93. A member of the Athletics Campaign Committee, he is working with his former teammates to endow the head football coach position.
“I have a strong sense of what a good coach can do to help young people become their best selves, and I’m consistently impressed with Jeff,” says Luby. “And, even though I was not a star on the field, the friendships I made as a player are my most important friendships to this day.”
Athletics Campaign Committee member and former varsity athlete Laurie Fergusson Plumb ’80, who played field hockey and women’s lacrosse and squash, has carried into adulthood the bonds she forged with her teammates, particularly her three roommates, with whom she still gets together at least once a year. She credits her athletics experience with giving her the confidence to succeed after college in sales, advertising, and public relations, including stints at Comcast, Ogilvy & Mather, and Sports Illustrated. She and husband Bob—also a varsity athlete from the Class of 1980—raised their family in Boston, and she remains active in athletics there as a middle school lacrosse coach, golfer, hiker, and runner.
“My involvement with the Trinity athletics campaign means a lot to me,” Plumb says. “The campaign has layers of meaning for all involved, and I want to convey the passion I have for Trinity athletics and the vitality of the mentoring and teaching that continues to shape my life, even after all these years.”
With more than one-third of the student body participating in varsity athletics and many playing club sports in competition with other schools and engaging in intramural activities on campus, the impact of athletics on the community is far-reaching.
For Kovas, four years competing in the club sport of alpine skiing taught her valuable lessons about time management and camaraderie. She remains involved with athletics in a sport that she didn’t play at Trinity: squash. Persuaded by her husband and son, both avid players, to take it up, she’s now a board member for MetroSquash, a program “enmeshed in the community” of the University of Chicago that combines academic support, competitive squash, and enrichment opportunities for students from grade 5 through secondary school and beyond.
With the Ferris Athletic Center expansion plan including both state-of-the-art squash facilities and dedicated space for Hartford’s own urban squash program, Capitol Squash, Kovas intends to bring her experience in Chicago to help deepen the relationship between Capitol Squash and the college. “As an adult, I appreciate even more the positive effects that athletics and mentoring can have in young people’s lives,” she says. “Enhancing the connection with Capitol Squash is a great way for us to foster the college’s relationship with our neighborhood.”
Athletics has long been a defining strength of the college and has played a significant role in creating community and fostering generations of connections. Galbraith says the athletics campaign will benefit not only varsity, club, and intramural athletes but also the entire community.
The 15,000-square-foot fitness center will house cardio and weight equipment, and activities such as spinning, yoga, and Zumba will be in one central location instead of scattered around campus. “Students now are much more educated about fitness,” Galbraith says. “A major part of the process has been designing for the needs and expectations of this new generation.”
That point resonates with committee member Marc DiBenedetto ’13, whose campaign involvement includes communicating with and representing the interests of younger alumni. DiBenedetto has a deep connection to Trinity athletics as a club athlete (baseball), a member of a Bantam athletics family (father and four brothers), and a reporter on the college’s teams through the student-run (but no longer active) Trinity Sports Network. Now a video content producer for New England Sports Network (NESN), DiBenedetto created for his senior thesis at Trinity a full-length documentary called All In that chronicles the Trinity men’s squash team’s road to the 2013 national championship.
DiBenedetto says his mission is to persuade athletes and nonathletes alike to support the current campaign however they can. “Even though so much of what Trinity means to me is connected to sports,” he says, “half of my friends were not athletes, and I know the positive effects of the athletics program on the school overall.”
ATHLETICS CAMPAIGN COMMMITTEE
“Our committee includes alumni who are devoted to Trinity athletics, alumni for whom athletics has been instrumental in their careers, and alumni who are enthusiastic about the opportunity to transform Ferris into a welcoming space for athletes and for everyone who is interested in health and fitness.”
-Elissa Raether Kovas ’93
Peter Duncan ’81, P’13, ’14, co-chair
Elissa Raether Kovas ’93, co-chair
Ray Beech ’60, P’94
Ed Berkowitz P’91
Rohan Bhappu ’02
Monica Iacono Boss ’95
Paul Broderick ’93, P’23
Clint Brown ’79
Christine Smith Collins ’91
Phoebe Booth DePree ’01
Marc DiBenedetto ’13
Todd DuBoef ’90
Derek Falvey ’05
Dan Good ’95
Jerry Hansen Jr. ’51, P’78, ’84, ’88, GP’12, ’16, ’20
Billy Hogan ’96
Sam Kennedy ’95
Mark Leavitt ’80, P’14
Bill Luby ’81
J.P. Marra ’90, P’23
Brendan Monahan ’95
Jay Monahan ’93
Lisa Parker ’80
Laurie Fergusson Plumb ’80
Andy Rathmann-Noonan ’09
Macey Russell ’80
Robin Sheppard M’76
Kevin Smith ’87, P’21
Doug Tansill ’61, P’91, ’96
Mike Tucci ’82, P’16
Bill Villari ’86
Ginny Vogel Yonce ’87, P’23, ’23