It is with a heavy heart that I share the passing of Donald M. Forsyth, a founding father of Marlins Athletics. Hired in 1969 as the first full-time employee in Virginia Wesleyan Athletics, Don served as men's basketball coach, golf coach, and athletic director. He was instrumental in the formation of 14 varsity sports programs and guided the development of the athletic fields and the construction of Cunningham Gymnasium (now known as the CMAC). He was also a member of the inaugural class of the VWU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
In his more than 29 years at Virginia Wesleyan, he served as a mentor and friend to athletes on and off the court. In men's basketball, he coached the Marlins for 20 years and led Virginia Wesleyan to two conference championships in 1978 and 1979, three NCAA berths, nine consecutive winning seasons, and two 20 plus-win seasons. His awards include being named three times as Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, National Association of Basketball Coaches South Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, and the Virginia Beach Sport Club Director's Award.
After retiring from Virginia Wesleyan in 1998, Don and his wife Dianna moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, but they remained actively engaged with Virginia Wesleyan and Marlins Athletics. When he was still able to travel, he often came to basketball games, alumni games and Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. He was a steadfast supporter of many areas of VWU Athletics and always an avid Marlins fan.
Today, the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins compete on the Donald M. Forsyth Court in TowneBank Arena of the Jane P. Batten Student Center. His legacy lives on at VWU, and we are grateful to have benefitted from his pioneering spirit and visionary leadership. The many successes of VWU Athletics today are a direct result of the strong foundation Don helped to build during the early years of this institution.
Please keep the Forsyth family in your prayers during this difficult time.
The University began required COVID testing for athletes on January 3, 2021, and have administered nearly 1,000 tests so far. The testing is done in-house with coaches and our partners from Sentara running the operation from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. from Monday through Saturday. See how testing happens at VWU...
After our national search for the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics was suspended last spring because of unique circumstances created by the pandemic, we concluded that the best candidate was right here. I am pleased to announce that Andrea Hoover-Erbig will become Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Virginia Wesleyan University, effective this summer.
She has a history of winning, and winning with integrity. As our senior woman administrator and academic integration coordinator, she has demonstrated a deep passion for aspects of the department that are critical to our University mission.
Andrea currently serves as Head Women's Volleyball Coach, Senior Woman Administrator, and Academic Integration Coordinator. She is also in her 15th season leading the Marlin volleyball program and is the most successful coach in program history with 281 wins and just 161 losses, including a 96-42 record in ODAC play. Six squads won at least 20 games in a season during that period, and she was twice named ODAC Coach of the Year.
After COVID suspended the normal fall season, VWU volleyball will return to the court this spring to defend their 2019 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championship Title. The Marlins posted a 28-8 overall record in 2019 and also made the program's first appearance in the NCAA Championship Tournament.
Andrea holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in physical education with a minor in adapted physical activity and rehabilitation from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and a Masters of Arts in education from Marietta College in Ohio. She was a four-year letter winner at Slippery Rock.
She will succeed Wesleyan’s current athletic director, Joanne Renn, who came out of retirement last year to serve as the interim athletics director during the pandemic. I again thank Joanne for delaying some significant retirement plans for the good of the University.
Please join me in congratulating Andrea and thanking Joanne.
The renovation of the “front porch” of the Center for Enrollment in Godwin Hall has begun and is privately funded. As previously announced, the Barclay Sheaks Art Gallery will move to a new, more accessible, larger and functional space adjacent to the Neil Britton Art Gallery in Hofheimer Library. That will enable the current Sheaks Gallery space to become the enrollment waiting area. The former waiting area will become the enrollment group visitation room, and the current conference/group visitation room will be converted to be the outreach center. The Welcome Desk area has been relocated to the new waiting area and the former space is being converted to a Work and Learn Program work area.
I am pleased to announce that this transformation of campus space also includes a new name. The David L. Kaufman Center for Enrollment will honor our longtime friend and former chair of the Board of Trustees. David has been an unsung hero at VWU for far too long, having privately funded many important projects in campus life including the Opus student-work initiative which has now become the Work & Learn Program. He has been a tremendous ally and supporter of Virginia Wesleyan, and we are delighted to recognize his many contributions in this way.
Virginia Wesleyan University’s new WesBridge program will serve as a bridge for select students between high school and the start of their college careers. Our goal is to give students the opportunity to jump-start their college education and further develop needed academic skills so that their transition into college is as smooth as possible. Participation in this program will also help students prepare for the non-academic part of college. We want our students to have the support they need to be a successful member of Marlin Nation, and we believe WesBridge is the right start.
The program will offer two classes for credit over the summer to ease students into their college education and help them build the skills needed to succeed at VWU. Courses will be taught by VWU faculty, who will support students every step of the way. Upon successful completion of this program, students will start the fall semester with five credit hours already completed toward graduation requirements.
Last week the VWU Board of Trustees held their winter committee meetings via Zoom with the Academic Affairs, Investment, Finance and Administration, Student Affairs, Advancement, and Enrollment Committees. I thank our Chair of the Board, John Malbon, and our Committee Chairs, Nancy DeFord, Jim Shumadine, Tim Bailey ’83, Jon Pruden, Vince Mastracco, and David Kaufman, respectively, for their engagement and leadership. The full Board of Trustees will convene once again to hear committee reports and strategize plans for the future.
I also share the sad news of the passing of Rev. C. Warner Crumb, a former member of the VWU Board of Trustees. Rev. Crumb served as a District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church on the Eastern Shore. As such, he was an ex officio member of the Board. He was also a longtime friend of former Virginia Wesleyan president Lambuth Clarke. Learn more about his life here.
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis recently announced new retirements and appointments in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church that directly impact the VWU Board of Trustees. Bishop Lewis announced the retirement of Rev. Wayne Snead, the current Elizabeth River District superintendent, and reappointment of Rev. Alex Joyner, current Eastern Shore District superintendent, to a new church ministry. Both Wayne and Alex have served on the VWU Board of Trustees and on the advisory council for VWU's Robert F. Boyd Institute. We thank them for their service on the Board, their assistance in guiding and growing the Boyd Institute, and we look forward to their continued friendship.
Bishop Lewis also announced the appointment of Rev. Seonyoung Kim to the position of the district superintendent for both the Elizabeth River District and the Eastern Shore District. Rev. Kim previously served as a district superintendent in the area, so we look forward to welcoming her back into the VWU fold.
Rev. Snead will continue his service to the VWU Board until this summer. At that time Rev. Kim will join Bishop Lewis as the United Methodist Church ex-officio designates on the Board.
AROUND TOWN AND ACROSS CAMPUS
Black History Month Celebration Continues at VWU
I hope the campus community continues to take advantage of our special events and exhibits planned in celebration of Black History Month.
A Decision to Be Impactful
This Wednesday, as a part of our virtual Wesleyan Wednesdays, the Office of Alumni Relations presents “A Decision to Be Impactful” by Chavon Thomas ‘11. Chavon ended 2020 as a #1 Amazon bestselling author of "Undeterred: Success Stories of Female Leaders Who Pursued a Seat at the Table," a book she co-authored with other women in leadership. Her chapter was titled, “Becoming an Educator for the Next Generation.” As a first-generation college student, she is passionate about helping others overcome obstacles by providing the foundational knowledge found in her original book "Turning High School into a Launching Pad" and sharing other women's stories of triumph in her talk show. Register to attend this free event here.
Vice President Kim Hammer Recognized as
“Pittsburgh Professional Women Influential Leader”
Kim Hammer, Vice President for Advancement and Special Assistant to the President, has been selected as aPittsburgh Professional Women 2021 Influential Leader and will be honored during a virtual program on March 8. Prior to joining VWU in November, Kim had been living in Pittsburgh since 1991, serving in various positions in and around the city, including Carlow University, Robert Morris University, The Pittsburgh Promise, the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the Pittsburgh Foundation. Much of her development career has been dedicated to serving a city she loves, so it’s wonderful that she has been distinguished in this way. We’re delighted that she has brought her many talents to Virginia Beach and the Virginia Wesleyan University family!
It has been an incredibly emotional few days on campus as we continue to process the loss of a fellow Marlin. In my Nota Bene last Thursday, I shared that campus counseling services are available for anyone needing assistance. If you or someone you know is struggling or has experienced suicidal thoughts, please contact Counselor Bill Brown at 757.455.5730 (x 5730) or email@example.com or Counselor Crista Glover at 757.455.3131 (x 3131) or firstname.lastname@example.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and you can connect to theCrisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You are not alone.
Evelyn T. Butts, Local Black Leader Who Created Change
Born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1924, Evelyn T. Butts was orphaned at the age of 10, dropped out of high school in tenth grade, and worked as a seamstress. She is most well known for her political activism. She challenged the poll tax in Virginia in an unusual case that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966, making poll taxes unconstitutional and ending more than 60-years of using the tax as a barrier to voting for African Americans and poor people.
She went on to help found Concerned Citizens for Political Education which was active in electing Joseph Jordan in 1968 as Norfolk City Council’s first African American member in the twentieth century, and electing William P. Robinson the following year as the first African American to represent Norfolk in the House of Delegates.
Although she was never elected to office herself, the press regularly referred to her as one of the most powerful black politicians in Norfolk. It is not surprising that Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander found her life and work to be appropriate as the focus of his Ph.D. dissertation. She died in 1993 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk.
On February 2, 1959, seventeen African American students ranging in age from 12 to 17 integrated the formerly all-white public middle and high schools in Norfolk, Virginia. On their first day of school, they were greeted by angry white mobs. Police were there to protect them, but did little more than prevent them from being beaten with logs. The students were pelted with sticks and pebbles, taunted, and spat upon as they entered their new schools. The environments inside the school buildings were no less hostile with daily harassment that included name-calling, physical attacks, and mistreatment by their teachers. These brave students bore the burden of daily emotional and physical abuse, and in doing so, furthered the movement for integration.
Join us on February 19 from 12-1 p.m. to hear first hand from some of the Norfolk 17 as we watch clips of the WHRO documentary “The Norfolk 17: Their Story.” Producer Lisa Godley and New Journal & Guide editor Brenda Andrews will share reflections from their experiences with the Norfolk 17. Register for this virtual event.