Alumni Unite to Endow Lacrosse Programs
Yale launched its rich lacrosse heritage late in the 1800s as one of the first universities in America to play the game competitively at the collegiate level. The Elis won the national championship in 1883 and remained a national power for many decades thereafter. All told, the men’s team has won six Ivy League Championships, with the first in 1956. The others came in 1969, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 2010. The 1990 team made it to the NCAA Final Four.
Yale fielded its first women’s lacrosse team in 1976, which today stands with an overall record of 346-231-5. Since 1998, the program has produced seventeen All-Americans, and in 2003, the team won the Ivy Championship.
Former athletes give generously
Since 2010, men’s lacrosse at Yale has reasserted its place as a team of national prominence. The Bulldogs have earned an Ivy League Championship, won two consecutive Ivy League tournaments in 2012 and 2013, and in the same year made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. In 2014, the team qualified for its fifth consecutive Ivy League Tournament—one of just two schools to accomplish that feat. This strong showing has inspired a group of alumni and parents in an effort to fully endow both men’s and women’s lacrosse.
“I felt lucky to have been a part of the Yale lacrosse program,” said Joe Tsai ’86, ’90 J.D., a walk-on to the Yale team of 1983–1986 who has committed to make the lead gift to the endowment. “The sport taught me life lessons about team work and perseverance. While I never got past playing on the third midfield line, being part of the team was the best experience of my life. Now I have a chance to give back as a way to honor the tradition of Yale lacrosse, inspire our student-athletes, and show appreciation for what coaches Andy Shay and Anne Phillips have done for the men’s and women’s programs.”
As of June 11, 2014, donors have raised $7.95 million for lacrosse against a goal of $12.5 million. In addition to Tsai and his wife Clara Wu, supporters include Vincent J. ’98 and Clara Gillespie ’01 Ferraro, Ed and Susan R. ’87 Forst, Christine C. and Jason W. ’87 Reese, Barbara E. and Jonathan P. ’90 Reese, Brian M. ’85, ’92 J.D. and Jeannette S. Reilly, Caroline and David ’92 Ryan, David I. ’95 and Rebecca Vitas ’00 MBA Schamis, David W. Schwartz ’87, and Timothy A. Steinert ’82, as well as several anonymous donors.
“I am grateful to everyone who has stepped forward to endow our lacrosse programs,” said President Salovey. “This is a wonderful example of alumni coming together to ensure that our coaches and students have the resources they need to succeed on the field and in the classroom.”
A shared commitment to athletics
A four-year letterman and former goalie for the Bulldogs, Jason Reese likes to imagine a future conversation between a coach and a prospective athlete: “When we are able to say that Yale lacrosse is the only endowed program in the Ivy League, that will be a powerful recruiting tool,” he said.
But attracting top athletes, he notes, is just one of the reasons to support the program. “Sports are a vital part of the undergraduate experience,” he said. “Things like teamwork and striving for excellence are best learned working with others in a competitive environment. Lacrosse was very formative during my time at Yale, and it continues to be important.”
Clara Ferraro, who played four years on attack for the Bulldogs, still identifies with her lacrosse experience. “When I arrived on campus, lacrosse immediately connected me with a close-knit group of young women,” she said. “I learned the importance of hard work and discipline and the power of working together toward a common goal.” With her husband, Vincent Ferraro, Clara is a strong believer in not just lacrosse, but all competitive varsity athletics. “The positive influence that athletics can have on the student experience across an entire university is significant,” she said.
David Ryan, for four years a Yale defenseman, shares this enthusiasm. “As college athletes, we learned lessons and encountered people who remain an integral part of our lives,” he said. “With the programs’ recent success and the groundswell of renewed attention to Ivy League sports, many of us are extremely excited about giving back to ensure future generations of student-athletes have the same opportunities we did.”
In recent years, Yale alumni have been particularly generous with gifts to update facilities for the lacrosse teams, who now compete in Reese Stadium. Others have endowed the head coaching positions: Andy Shay is the Ryan and Forst Family Head Coach of men’s lacrosse, and Anne Phillips is the Joel E. Smilow Class of 1954 Head Coach of the women’s program. A fully funded endowment for the lacrosse programs is the next logical step.
A bulwark against budget pressures
Steady funding is essential to building a strong collegiate sports program. Coaches develop recruiting and training strategies that span multiple seasons, and students gain new abilities as they mature through their undergraduate years. They rely on access to high-quality facilities, equipment, staffing, and flexible programmatic funds to meet the myriad demands of training and competition.
“An endowed fund is an ideal vehicle to support programs like lacrosse at Yale,” said Reese. “Since the economic downturn of 2008, all areas of the university have felt the pressure of a continuing budget deficit. Our goal is to supply enough endowment to meet core needs of the program year after year.
“We are hoping that this approach can provide a model for other sports programs at Yale,” he added.
“Our lacrosse alumni are doing an incredible service for the programs and the university they love,” said Tom Beckett, director of athletics at Yale. “With thirty-five Division I programs, we are deeply committed to making lacrosse and all our varsity teams the very best in the Ivy League. A growing endowment makes it that much easier to attract top coaches and students and to support them in competition. In the coming years, we hope to endow all of our coaching positions and to secure new programmatic funds for every men’s and women’s sport. “These generous alumni and parents are showing us how this can be done, and we are extremely grateful.”
(August 6, 2014)