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New Facility Elevates Women’s Athletics

By University Advancement Staff

As part of William & Mary’s commemoration of 100 years of coeducation and women’s athletics in 2018, several donors contributed to a $2.4 million commitment through the For the Bold campaign to establish a new home for the women’s field hockey team. The new center at Busch Field features a locker room, rooftop patio, meeting space, public restrooms and video streaming capabilities.

The facility, named the Tribe Field Hockey Center, was made possible by the generosity of many alumni, parents and friends of the university, including the lead donors: Cathy Bessant P ’18, John Clay P ’18, Kelly Donahue P ’18, P ’21, Chris Donahue P ’18, P ’21, Maryellen Farmer Feeley ’85, Ed Feeley M.B.A. ’85, Tracy Leinbach ’81 and Millie West HON ’91, L.H.D. ’17. The development of the center was part of a fundraising initiative called the Century Project, which set into motion efforts designed to enhance the experience for women athletes and the caliber of the university’s facilities.

“William & Mary women have paved their own way in athletics. From the moment they entered the university, they formed sports teams and competed on numerous fields of play. Though forced to overcome gender boundaries daily, their athletic prowess stretched from Williamsburg to the national stage,” says Sue Hanna Gerdelman ’76, chair of the For the Bold campaign. “It is remarkable to see the evolution of the women’s athletics program from its beginning a century ago to today.” 

Bessant, who helped spearhead the Century Project along with her husband, Clay, told The Flat Hat that she believes participating in athletics is a way for students to foster personal and professional skills. After cheering on her daughter, Meredith Clay ’18, who played field hockey, she also saw a need to support the team and women’s athletics in general. 

“I think physical facilities really matter,” Bessant told the newspaper. “When the facilities aren’t competitive, it’s hard to do recruiting that is competitive.”

The lobby of the new center is named in memory of Jess Nixon ’03, a W&M field hockey player who died in 2013 after a long battle with cancer. “Nixon” — her nickname on the team — was a standout field hockey player and one of the Tribe’s greatest in the sport. During her run, the team made it to multiple NCAA tournaments and was once ranked seventh in the nation. In her last year, she was captain.

Nixon left an indelible mark on William & Mary field hockey, and, even more so, her teammates. New generations of W&M athletes will now walk through the lobby under Nixon’s name, playing the sport she loved — and the sport through which she loved so many others. 

Her teammates, their parents and her friends, led by Jordan Steele Marotta ’03, Ginny Sutton Turner ’03 and Kristen Southerland Krop ’03, raised the money to name the lobby in her honor.

“It makes me really happy and proud that there will always be a piece of her there for every Tribe field hockey player to come,” says Marotta.