Defining the Wheaton Lyons spirit: positive, pragmatic and passionate

by Gavin Viano, Director of Athletics & Recreation

Throughout the pandemic, Wheaton Athletics & Recreation has adapted to changing health and safety protocols to offer the Wheaton community opportunities to stay fit and to compete in varsity and intramural sports.

As I celebrate my two-year anniversary at Wheaton in February of 2022, I reflect on how atypical these past 24 months have been for every single person at Wheaton, due to the global pandemic. Like everybody else at Wheaton, in Athletics & Recreation, we’ve been remote, we’ve been hybrid, and we’ve been in-person. We spent 366 days without a single athletic competition and then found a way to participate in all 21 varsity sports at once in the spring of 2021. While the fall of 2021 brought us closer to “normalcy,” this winter we’ve been reminded that we must continue to appreciate every opportunity we get to practice and compete because nothing can be taken for granted in our current environment. Nevertheless, I remain excited about the future.

Despite all of our best-laid plans needing to be reworked constantly, the resilience, flexibility and commitment exhibited by Wheaton’s students and staff have allowed us to stay true to the principles we set on my first day at Wheaton. Our departmental philosophy consists of three main themes. We aspire to be:

  • Positive: We control our quest for daily improvement. 
  • Pragmatic: We know we can’t resolve every challenge simultaneously. We’re focused on incremental success to achieve our goals. 
  • Passionate: We will love our work.  

Our commitment to these three themes has allowed us to find a way to move forward. Whether it’s competing for and winning championships, safely reintroducing community-building intramural offerings to campus, or providing both virtual and in-person recreation, wellness and fitness programming during the most challenging 24 months on record, our community has found a way to pivot from the norm without compromising what makes sports and recreation such a critical part of campus life. For this, I am grateful.

Athletics Catalyst Fund: $6 Million Matching Gift Challenge 

We have also been in the process of making strategic improvements to our facilities to ensure they are commensurate with the quality of Wheaton’s academic offerings. In 2021, we launched the Athletic Catalyst Fund, thanks to an extremely generous $3 million gift by an anonymous alum and their spouse. Through the first 12 months of the matching gift challenge, we’ve raised approximately $500,000. We have two years left to raise the remaining $2.5 million, in order to unlock all $3 million of the matching gift funds available.  

Our strategic planning process has identified over $10 million in potential facility upgrades to the Haas Athletic Center, Clark Center, Pappas Fitness Center as well as each of our outdoor fields and indoor venues. There are priorities and opportunities for essentially every aspect of the Athletics & Recreation program. While this challenge won’t address all of these opportunities, we have a window to build support and momentum over the next  24 months to realize $6 million towards our growth and sustainability, which will directly benefit the experiences of our students and staff. 

As we look towards the spring and the hopeful return of great weather for outdoor gatherings, we hope to see you cheering on the Lyons here on campus or on the road if we come to your area. 

Thanks for your support. We are honored to be a part of the Wheaton community.