Published 12/12/13

Powering the Bulldogs' athletic excellence

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 issue of Bryant magazine

Today’s NCAA Division I Bulldogs are the legacy of the dedicated student-athletes and coaches throughout Bryant University’s 150-year history. From the very first men’s varsity sports teams, which sprang up in the 1930s, to the 22 outstanding teams Bryant has today, athletics has been a constant source of spirit and pride in our community.

The  evidence of alumni who were athletes in their day returning to help current athletes is visible throughout campus. A few examples:

Jeff Doppelt ’73

The “student” and “athlete” parts of his years at Bryant were both very important to  Doppelt, an accounting major and a baseball outfielder who, in his senior year, led the Bulldogs in batting average, slugging percentage, and extra-base hits.

Financial health helps Bulldogs to be nationally competitive academically and athletically

With 22 teams playing NCAA Division I sports, Bryant now competes on a whole new level, and Doppelt, senior vice president-wealth management for Merrill Lynch, finds that development very exciting. He is generous in his support for athletics, with major gifts and annual support as well as regular contributions to the Black & Gold Club. His gifts also are helping to create Bryant’s soon-to-be-installed Wall of Fame, which will honor the University’s Hall of Fame athletes.

David Beirne ’85

When Beirne, a venture capitalist and former executive headhunter, played lacrosse at Bryant, it was a club rather than a varsity sport, with no locker rooms, and a playing field nickname “the quagmire.”

Now, the Bulldogs are a varsity team with an exceptional coach, Mike Pressler, who led the 2010 U.S. National Lacrosse Team to win the gold in the World Championships. The Bulldogs play on a state-of-the-art, all-weather synthetic turf field in the winter and carefully manicured turf in the spring. They also have a world-class locker room, thanks largely to Beirne who provided generous funding toward the cost of the $2.7 million renovation and expansion at Bulldog Stadium in 2009.

Bill ’67 and Sue Conaty

Conaty Park dedication

The University’s new baseball and softball complex (left) was made possible by a $1.4 million donation from the Conaties. The contribution has not gone unnoticed: game attendance tripled the year after the new complex opened.

Bill Conaty, now a University Trustee and vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, was captain of Bryant’s 1967 baseball team. In October, he joined the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Mike ’67 and Karen Fisher

When Mike Fisher returned to campus in 1966 to finish his degree and work in the athletics department, his coach, Tom Duffy, loaned the basketball player and his new bride, Karen, some furniture to fill their empty apartment. Fisher has since built and retired from a very successful career in the financial services industry, but he has never forgotten all the things Bryant gave him, both before and after graduating.

“For me, attending college was a big financial struggle. But Bryant wouldn’t let me give up. The people here were encouraging and did everything they could to help me make ends meet—a basketball scholarship, on-campus jobs. They supported me when I was in need, and I’ll never forget that,” Fisher said. And he hasn’t. The Fishers have given back to Bryant in innumerable ways, including providing for a new gym floor.

Malcolm G. '09H and Elizabeth Chace

Women's crew The late Malcolm G. “Kim” Chace was known for his keen business acumen and foresight. The founder and chairman of Bank Rhode Island and director of Berkshire Hathaway, he first came to know Bryant in 1958 as a student in an introductory accounting course. Years later, Chace recognized Bryant’s great potential and helped take it to the next level, serving as an active member of the Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2008.

The Chaces have supported a variety of initiatives at Bryant over the years. The women’s rowing program owes its start to their generosity: they procured two shells (one shown above) from Yale University, Kim Chace’s alma mater, for the team, and The Elizabeth Z. and Malcolm G. Chace Wellness and Athletic Center – an integral part of campus life -- was dedicated in October 2003 to honor the couple’s generosity.

Black & Gold members

“Our coaches, student-athletes, and staff take tremendous pride in representing Bryant University and recognize this incredible opportunity would not be possible without the generous support of our Black & Gold members, ” says Bill Smith, director of Athletics.

“The ability of our Bulldogs to be nationally competitive in Division I, both academically and athletically, is directly tied to the overall financial health of our department. The generosity of our Black & Gold members has been and will continue to be a critical component of that success.”

First established in 1980, the Black & Gold Club supports Bryant’s more than 500 student-athletes by providing the necessary resources to compete at the highest level.

Support goes toward providing scholarships, facility improvements, uniforms and equipment, and team travel.