March 13, 2014
When the UConn Basketball Champions Center opens later this year, there will be a great deal of respect paid to the talented student-athletes and Hall of Fame coaches who have helped to make Storrs the college basketball capital of the world.
Some of those same names are also currently deeply involved in helping to fund the construction of the center. The University's outreach to former student-athletes is being led by two of their teammates, Meghan (Pattyson) Culmo '92 and Jake Voskuhl '00.
"Every student athlete who has put on the Huskies uniform and stepped on the court is part of a special fraternity, a special group that shares a common bond. It's a brotherhood bound by hard work, determination and discipline," says Voskuhl. "We individually and collectively have learned life lessons, matured and grown up together. Now we have an opportunity to give back and help support Kevin Ollie as he does for others what Coach Calhoun has done for us."
As the coach of the Trinity College women's basketball team, and a donor to the center project, Wendy Davis '92 knows the value of private support to a basketball program.
"I think it is very important to give back to your alma mater. As a college coach with a limited budget, my alumnae dollars go a long way in making for a better student-athlete experience for my players. At UConn, I hope my donation will help provide a wonderful facility for the women's basketball players in order for them to have the ultimate student-athlete experience. It is the least I could do to show my support of Geno and Chris Dailey and all they have done for the university"
Voskuhl says that philanthropic commitments from Coach Kevin Ollie '95 and others are helping to inspire his former teammates. In addition to public gifts from Ollie and other basketball program alumni, Voskuhl says that the men's basketball student-athletes understand the power of philanthropy, "whether their gift is $500 or $50,000."
When his gift to support the Basketball Champions Center was announced in later 2012, Ollie alluded to many of the same experiences that Voskuhl spoke of.
"I thought it was very important to show my commitment to the UConn Basketball Champions Center," he said. "I have had the incredible opportunity to be a member of the Husky family and that experience has influenced every part of my life. I want to be an example for all former UConn basketball student-athletes, who have had the privilege of playing for two Hall of Fame coaches, to join me in supporting this facility. It will help ensure the long-term success of the programs that all of us helped establish."
Maria Conlon '05 sees her contribution as a continuation of the UConn experience.
"What I want to see from my giving is simple: a continuation of success, family, pride and the ability to create the next generation of leaders," she says. "Every year, we continue to advance and grow academically into one of the top universities in the country. The basketball programs are in great hands for the foreseeable future and I have faith that whoever has a hand in the program ten years from now will have as much pride and joy in it as the people now do. My hope is for us as an alumni community to continue to grow and become even more of a presence at the University that was such a huge stepping stone in all of our lives."
Voskuhl and Culmo believe that the challenge gift made by the Naydens (RELATED LINK and photo, right) is undoubtedly attracting the attention of the teammates he is calling upon to now give.
"When you see an alumni gift like Dennis and Britta's, it's inspirational, and we all get that it's now time to step forward and help the University and program that gave us so much," he says. "We can't wait to be there when the UConn Basketball Champions Center opens its doors and know that we will play a part in making that happen."