Athletics and the balanced academy
Among my favourite memories from my undergrad days at Queen’s are the two weekends in the fall of 1978 when I followed the football team to key playoff games. I accompanied two friends on the long bus ride to Halifax to see the Gaels defeat St. Francis Xavier in the Atlantic Bowl game. The following weekend, I went to Toronto for the College Bowl (now the Vanier Cup) and watched the Gaels triumph over UBC. I didn’t get to experience another Tricolour football championship until 2009 when, in my first autumn as Principal, the Gaels overcame a huge half-time deficit to defeat Calgary and capture their fourth national championship.
Sport has always been a big part of life at Queen’s, whether one is or has been a highly trained varsity athlete, a casual player, or just someone with no particular athletic skill (a group that would certainly include me) but who’s keen to stay in shape while adhering to that ancient maxim mens sana in corpore sano – “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.
I regard both physical and mental well-being as essential components of Queen’s “balanced academy.” The number of men’s and women’s varsity teams and clubs that we have at Queen’s is remarkable. Not all are played at nationally or provincially competitive levels, of course. Since 2007’s Crawford-Deakin report, we have opted to train and fund a smaller number of teams at the varsity level, while encouraging broad participation in all kinds of sports across the broader campus community.
In support of our athletes – of all interests and abilities – we opened the Athletic and Recreation Centre (the ARC) in late 2009, as a replacement for the very inadequate indoor facilities we once had. Attached to the Student Life Centre, the ARC has been a boon to campus life; its facilities and equipment are almost always used to capacity. In addition, we have a new all-weather practice field on West Campus, the refurbished Tindall Field, and the beautiful rugby pitch, Nixon Field, generously supported by Initiative Campaign Chair Gordon Nixon, Com’79, LLD’03, and his wife Janet (Raymond), Com’80.
But we have more to do. We still lack a field house and a campus arena, and apart from the new practice field, the sports facilities on West Campus are in poor shape. Above all, we desperately need a new facility to replace Richardson Stadium, which was intended to be temporary when opened 39 years ago, in 1974.
A key component of the Initiative Campaign is a Fields and Stadium project that would include a new, up-to-date stadium that will be a centerpiece for West Campus revitalization, a big cauldron for stirring up that legendary Queen’s spirit, and hopefully a home for future championship football teams. That said, I hasten to point out that a new stadium will benefit many more sports than just football. Many of our sports teams, both men’s and women’s, will train and play home games here.
Happily, we’re on the cusp of moving forward. A lead donor, who prefers to remain anonymous for now, has been working with University officials to develop a plan for the new George Richardson Memorial Stadium. Other potential donors are also considering their support for this project. I fully share the excitement and vision for what could be a spectacular facility. I consider it one of my highest priorities for the campaign and am devoting a great deal of my Campaign-related time to raising funds for this project, which will be entirely philanthropic; government funding does not normally support athletic facilities.
As we start putting plans in place for Queen’s 175th anniversary in 2016, it’s exciting to imagine that we could be marking it with a brand new stadium. It would be a wonderful way to acknowledge our history while making a substantial commitment to our future – both on the field and off.