Former Catawba athletes lead effort to upgrade Abernethy P.E. Center and Goodman Gym

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2015

“Now’s the time to step up and show some leadership,” Catawba alumnus Tom Dennard told some of his former basketball teammates and classmates in early January, when they met on campus for their annual gathering with their former coach, Sam Moir.

These former players and their coach were updated on Catawba’s progress toward its $60 million comprehensive campaign effort from President Brien Lewis and learned they were being tapped to participate in a mini-campaign to raise $1.5 million to improve Abernethy Physical Education Center and its Goodman Gymnasium.

“Think and remember Catawba,” Dennard encouraged. “We can’t do it (reach the $1.5 million goal) thinking somebody else is going to make it happen. We have to be part of the dream team.”

Dennard and wife Mary Jo, a 1975 alumna of Catawba, recently made a $200,000 gift to Catawba, designating $150,000 to upgrade Abernethy Physical Education Center and Goodman Gymnasium and the remaining $50,000 targeted to an endowed scholarship available for deserving students majoring in Early Childhood Education.

Dennard said $150,000 of the gift he and his wife made, coupled with a $300,000 gift from the Goodman family, will cover the cost of replacing the maple basketball floor in Goodman Gymnasium.

Dennard told his teammates there was much more to be done to upgrade the facility from the early 1970s and encouraged them to direct their gifts to a specific upgrade.

“There are multiple dressing rooms down there that look like they looked the day we walked out of them.  We need to bring them up to a certain standard,” he said.

“We’re way far behind, guys.  It’s ridiculous.  This facility is tired and old, but is a great shell,” he concluded.

Specific projects targeted in the mini-campaign include the maple wood floor replacement, bleacher repair and modification, seating upgrades, digital graphics wallpaper outside locker rooms and offices, scoreboard and shot clock replacement, press row tables, a video board, basketball team locker room upgrades, volleyball team locker room upgrades, swimming team locker room upgrades, floor dividers and Abernethy office space renovation and refurbishment.

Another former Catawba basketball player and longtime employee, Tom Childress, came out of his recent retirement to lead the mini-campaign.

“This is a very special area for me, as it is for you,” Childress explained to those gathered for their annual reunion with Moir, who coached Catawba basketball for 34 seasons.

“Think about what you can do to make a difference. We’re a third of the way there, and we need the other two-thirds to complete the upgrades,” he said.

Childress shared that Gordon Kirkland, Jr. and William “Bill” Haggerty, both retired Catawba employees and alumni, also are making time to work on the mini campaign. He said a steering committee would soon be announced that would call on individuals associated with the basketball program and make one-on-one asks.

“We’re underfunded and over-achieving based on the investment we’re making in athletics,” said Catawba Athletic Director Larry Leckonby, who also spoke to the group. “There are all kinds of needs, from A to Z, we run the whole gamut, but we’re looking forward to working on this building and bringing it up to a respectful level.”

Other individuals interested in making a gift to fund upgrades in Abernethy Physical Education Center and Goodman Gymnasium should contact the Joey Knight, Catawba’s director of athletic development, at 704-637-4394, or make a gift online at