This year’s Homecoming events wrapped up over the weekend, featuring the annual tailgate tent village on Saturday, October 14 which brought a great crowd to campus. Westfield State’s men’s soccer and football teams competed against Fitchburg State University and UMass Dartmouth University respectively, with the Owl’s soccer team earning the winning goal in the exciting last minutes of the game.
The community rolled out the blue carpet for four days of celebrations under the theme of “Lights, Camera, Homecoming!” Highlights included a fundraising dinner which asked donors and guests to “Shine a Light on Scholarship,” the Athletics Hall of Fame Induction, and the Parenzo Hall Grand Reopening.
On Thursday, October 12, the annual Scholarship Dinner highlighted four scholarships: the Dan Doyle Memorial Scholarship, the Jerry Gavel Memorial Scholarship, the Class of 1969 Scholarship, and the Dr. Terrell M. Hill “Leader for Change” Scholarship. Scholarships like these provide critical support for deserving students and provide alumni and friends with an opportunity to give back to a place they love.
The Dan Doyle Memorial Scholarship honors Daniel Doyle ’81 who passed in 1982. As Doyle was a member of both the cross country and track teams at Westfield State, student-athletes have raised over $200,000 in the 30 years this scholarship’s been awarded. The Jerry Gavel Memorial Scholarship commemorates Coach Jerry Gavel, who was a coach, teacher, and mentor at the University. Similarly, over $200,000 in funds has been raised through fundraising over the span of 30 years. Created by fellow classmates, the Class of 1969 Scholarship memorializes peers and friends who are both living and deceased, while simultaneously inspiring other classes to leave their own legacies. The Dr. Terrell M. Hill “Leader for Change” Scholarship was established by Dr. Hill to help underrepresented minority and first-generation students receive quality education.
The Scholarship Dinner also honored Roland Damon ’56, ’59 who is supporting the University in honor of his late wife, Ruth Merritt Damon, and whose generosity and enthusiasm also inspired his children to give, making philanthropy a family affair.
Students and University offices also got involved in Homecoming festivities on Thursday as SAIL sponsored a scarecrow decorating contest. From likenesses of Teddy Roosevelt and Sigmund Freud to our beloved mascot Nestor, teams enjoyed beautiful weather and camaraderie as they prepared their submissions for judging.
The Homecoming schedule was full on Friday, October 13 with the Grand Reopening of Parenzo Hall, the English Department’s annual Alumni Poetry Reading, the Athletics Hall of Fame, and Fall Fest where students were able to enjoy pumpkin carving, s’mores, and a hayride around campus.
Following the ribbon cutting on the steps of Parenzo Hall, Homecoming Co-Chairs Doug Meehan ’88 and Rae Cofsky ’17 hosted campus leaders and dignitaries for the first event back in Dever Auditorium. The event was especially meaningful for the Co-Chairs as they both got their start in the professional world of communications and entertainment on the same stage as student performers.
Dr. Robert Martin, member of the Board of Trustees, Michael McCabe, Westfield mayor and two-time graduate, Adam Baacke, Commissioner from the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, Linda Thompson, President of Westfield State University, and Nicholas Smith, President of the Student Government Association, all spoke about their hopes for Parenzo Hall, as it continues to be a pivotal part of campus infrastructure.
“If Anthony Parenzo was here today, he would approve,” President Thompson said during her address. “It was collaboration, hard work, innovative ideas, and risk-taking that got us to this point. The groups and individuals that made this renovation happen cross many disciplines. They all were tenacious. We can all agree this is a beautiful space. It is an inspirational space. It’s a space to think and dream and learn. Students, faculty, and staff, enjoy this building. Make it your home. Take Anthony Parenzo as an inspiration to try new things. Take risks. Pursue your big ideas. Seek out help from others. While this building has a long history for us, this renovation is for our future. It’s for your future. This is a proud day for Westfield State University.”
Nicholas Smith echoed this sentiment, urging students to get familiar with and utilize the building. “Westfield State University is almost 185 years old and since our founding, the institution has always been an example of modernity and innovation,” he said. “I believe we see evidence of these ideals in this space. I would encourage my fellow students to spend time here. Explore the offices and study spaces. Get to know the people who will be working in this building. This building, after all, was designed with students in mind. This is a space where we can be creative and innovative with our education. I know there are many more ideas being developed for what can be accomplished here. Students, take advantage of these opportunities. Faculty and staff, we can’t wait to work with you here. And supporters, thank you for giving us this space. We promise to make the most of it.”
Later in the evening, the Athletic Hall of Fame welcomed five new inductees. Tom Stewart ’88, was inducted cross country and track and field. He’s now the Director of Athletics at Holyoke Community College, where he’s served since 1996. Kerry Arouca ’10 was also inducted for cross country and track. Once a former middle school teacher, she now runs day care activities for several local physicians in the Brockton area. Andrea Cohen ’09 was inducted for women’s basketball category and serves as a stay-at-home mother for her four children. Cohen remains involved in the basketball communities, as she coaches her daughter’s youth basketball team. Josh Mathieu ’10 was inducted for men’s football and is one of just 11 All-Americans in the history of the Owls program. He currently is a police detective in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. The final inductee was Dave Jaehnig ’09, for men’s basketball. He’s not a middle school math teacher in Waltham.
The dinner also honored Jim ’98 and Joanne Parker as the 2023 Hagan Award Recipients. The Hagan Award is named after its first recipient, Westfield Bank President Jim Hagan ’84, and is awarded to those who’ve significantly impacted Owl intramural sports through their contributions and volunteerism. Jim and Joanne Parker have historically been generous supporters of Westfield State University and have established endowed funds for the men and women’s cross country teams, thereby supporting the program’s perpetuity.
“The Athletics programs here at Westfield State University represent the heart, soul and spirit of our campus community,” President Thompson said in her opening remarks. “Events like Homecoming are often a reason to call home alumni athletes, coaches, and supporters to celebrate what it means to be an Owl. Our athletes are diplomats and ambassadors for our University, representing our campus during travels across the region, and I am proud our alumni continue to do the same as they reflect so positively on our University.”
Saturday, October 14 brought another busy day with the setup of the Tent Tailgate Village, Athletics’ vintage uniform sale, and Alumni trivia to the Woodward Center. On the field, men’s Soccer hosted Fitchburg State University, football took on UMass Dartmouth, and alumni engaged in a friendly Field Hockey contest.
Events concluded on Sunday, October 15 as guests visited the Dining Commons for a Jazz Brunch before alumni returned home and students turned to their studies.
“This year, we had 50 tents registered for the tailgate, and it was amazing to see more departments and affinity groups participate,” Ryan Meersman, Director of Alumni Relations said. “That enabled us to reach out alumni based on their majors or known clubs and organizations. We hope to continue to see this grow each year.”
Meersman also emphasized the success of this year’s Homecoming, and how its events helped to stir and solidify campus spirit. “This year’s Homecoming really honored our amazing alumni, their achievements, and their philanthropy. The Scholarship Dinner highlighted the generosity of our alumni and the incredible work of our current students. The Parenzo Ribbon Cutting reintroduced a space for 21st century learning and creativity, and allowed us to honor two alums who spent a lot of time performing on the stage. The Athletic Hall of Fame is an evening filled with Owl Spirit, that honored five more incredible alumni athletes, and Saturday continues to build upon that spirit and enthusiasm around Owl Athletics, and Westfield State as a whole. It was a great weekend to be an Owl!”