Athletics and Strategic Programs flourish at Wheaton

Enhancements and additions to Athletics and Strategic Programs drive the Wheaton Lyons forward.

by Gavin Viano, Associate Vice President for Athletics & Strategic Programs

As I write this message, it is Fall Break on campus, and I find myself wondering how did we get to mid-October so quickly? For those of us who were on campus to start the 2020 and 2021 academic years, 2022 has proven to be, by far, the most enjoyable in terms of Wheaton being able to return to so many of our pre-pandemic offerings and traditions. Wheaton’s strength is made up of the people in our community and the ability to interact again in person has provided such a boost for faculty and staff and most importantly our students.

In Athletics & Strategic programs we’ve been busy in several areas, but most notably, we announced in August, that Wheaton would begin sponsoring Men’s and Women’s Water Polo starting in the fall of 2023. These two sports are the first that Wheaton has added in over a quarter-century, and on October 10 we welcomed our inaugural head coach, Alana Burgess, to campus. She is already busy recruiting our first-ever Lyons water polo players and we’re excited to have two more teams to cheer for inside Balfour-Hood Natatorium.

In other staffing news, Jill Ashton joined Wheaton’s Advancement Team as a Senior Gift Officer for Athletics. Jill has vast experience as a front-line fundraiser in higher ed, having worked at UCONN, Virginia Tech, and Penn State. Jill is partnering with me and volunteer leaders to develop higher levels of support through the Catalyst Fund for Wheaton Athletics and the Lyons Athletic Club.

The Catalyst Fund for Wheaton Athletics, which was announced one year ago, has raised a total of $4.1 million in gifts and pledges toward a goal of $6 million.

Additionally, the Janyce Vaughan ’53 Endowed Coaching Fund for Artistic Swimming—Wheaton’s first endowed coaching position—has been established. That is truly a game-changer for Wheaton Athletics—and it gives us some budget-relieving flexibility.

Our investment in athletics infrastructure and coaching will have a profound impact on recruiting and retaining student-athletes, who make up approximately 25% of our student body.

Exciting changes have been happening in Haas where we were thrilled to open our new strength and conditioning center. This state-of-the-art space will serve our 400+ athletes and will be a showcase to prospective students and families who are considering Wheaton. Renovations also include remodeled office spaces and the addition of the new Marcus Family Film and Media room which allows varsity coaching staff to review tactics and strategies with their teams. In addition, the entrance to Haas underwent a transformation and now boldly welcomes visitors to the home of the Lyons.

In terms of campus fitness and recreational offerings, we’ve been making improvements to the equipment in the Pappas Fitness Center; including the installation of state-of-the-art machines to focus on strength fitness to benefit the entire campus community. The center now features a new hip abductor/adductor, a bicep/triceps machine, a multi-press and linear leg press machines as well as a leg press machine that is plate loaded. The new machines also allow for more space in the fitness center due to their multi-functionality. In addition, Pappas will have new air conditioning installed in May of 2023.

In addition to growth in terms of our athletic offerings, our coaches and staff are incredibly excited to be able to recruit students who are interested in Wheaton’s three newest majors, Nursing, Design, and CJRJC (Criminal Justice, Restorative Justice and Criminology). These majors not only will open Wheaton to more potential students but will also underscore the college’s commitment to provide both educational and experiential preparation as we prepare our students to thrive following graduation.

By the time you read this message, our fall sports seasons will likely have concluded and our winter sports seasons will be in full swing. While the stories of the fall sports are still being written and the winter stories are just beginning, we remain grateful for the opportunity to compete on behalf of the college and proud to be members of the greater Wheaton Family, which includes parents, alums and families in addition to students, faculty and staff. Thanks for all you do to support the mission of Wheaton College.