As an alumna of Wheaton’s field hockey team, Diane C. Nordin ’80 knows that athletics shapes both body and mind.
“The feeling of working hard, cheering, competing, succeeding and failing, and doing something with your body, not just your mind—those were important things you didn’t always find in the classroom,” says Nordin, now a Wheaton trustee. Through sports she learned resilience, how to make decisions on the spot, and how to juggle everything she needed to do “in order to succeed athletically, academically and spiritually.”
Nordin was reminded of her field hockey days in the summer of 2010, when she invited local Wheaton families to dinner at her home in Concord, Mass. There she reconnected with a former teammate, Elizabeth Atwood ’80, and met Atwood’s daughter Julia, then a forward on the Wheaton field hockey team.
Julia Atwood, Class of 2011, remembers it well. “Diane and I connected over our shared belief in the importance of the student-athlete,” she says, “and she showed genuine excitement for me as I headed into my last year as an undergraduate and my final field hockey season.”
The women also shared their concerns that the team—a regular contender in NEWMAC and ECAC tournaments—still had to rent time at a local turf field to play, while competing colleges all had their own.
“Diane saw this missing facility as a major issue that could no longer be put on hold,” Julia Atwood says. “She understood that the lack of such a facility was in fact hindering the college’s development. It was clear that she was going to take action.”
And take action she did. In 2011, the President’s Athletic Review Committee confirmed that an artificial turf field was a major facilities need on campus. Nordin and her husband, Tom Keller, an experienced college coach, offered to make a major gift in support of a field.
Several others followed suit, including Joan McNamara Crowley ’78, a field hockey alumna, and Janet Kelly ’86, a two-time All-American in field hockey.
“Athletes are often required to commit five hours of their day to training, practice and travel on top of the regular academic demands,” Kelly says. “It is impressive and well deserved that these women should now be able to practice and play at home, where their friends and family on campus can watch them with enthusiasm and joy.”
Keith Figlioli ’93, who played lacrosse at Wheaton, agrees. “I strongly support the addition of the new turf field,” he says. “Not only will it increase the stature of Wheaton athletics, but it will also expand the number of students who participate in the vast selection of varsity and intramural sports at Wheaton.”
Nordin hopes that her contribution and the other lead gifts will inspire more people to give. She wants parents and alumnae/i to share her sense of urgency. Paraphrasing Rabbi Hillel, she says, “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”
“I’m trying to spark a movement,” she says. “We were the spark—the catalyst—but it will take more support from others. I sense this is just the beginning.”