Spring Arbor University has received a commitment for a lead gift of $400,000, plus a $200,000 challenge gift for a total of $600,000 from the Martin D. and Mary J. Walker Charitable Foundation to make these upgrades possible.
Alumnus Don Walker could have run cross country at a number of other colleges. But when he visited Spring Arbor College his senior year of high school, his interactions with the faculty and coaching staff convinced him Spring Arbor was the school for him. “I showed up to find out that a lot of the team was headed to the Grand Valley Marathon the next day,” remembers Walker. “So I decided I was going to run too, without doing much training.” His lack of training became evident in the latter portion of the race, and he had to bow out 23 miles in. Ted Comden, the then cross country coach, gave him a lift in the school van. “It was embarrassing for me,” says Walker, “but the way Coach Comden handled the situation spoke to his character. From that point forward, I saw firsthand many times just what a class act he was (and is), and was reminded of what a great decision it was to come to Spring Arbor.”
In high school Don prioritized running over academic performance. At Spring Arbor, his teammates, Tony Luttrell and Robert Gould, modeled for him the life of the successful student athlete — excelling in the classroom while maintaining athletic performance. “Running in national competitions was a fantastic experience,” he says, “but I remember more about being a teammate and friend. Sports were fun and useful, but my academics, family and community were the real priorities.“
After graduating and establishing himself in career and family, Don became well acquainted with former chairman of the board of trustees, Glenn White. The two attended the Ferndale Free Methodist church with their families during the 80’s, and Don praises Glenn for his kindness and counsel. It was through their friendship that Don was elected to the board of trustees in 1989. “His support helped me in many ways,” says Don, “in life and career, and as a member of the board. His hospitality is something I will never forget.
Don still serves on the board, and his love for SAU has only grown over the years. “SAU provides a space and time for students to grow in every dimension of their lives — academics, fitness, friendship, and relationship with Christ.” The uniquity of the SAU experience is something Don holds dear, and he’s dedicated himself to improving that experience for subsequent generations of students. “I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I was born. I want the same for SAU and the programs that impacted me.” As a former student athlete, Don holds the track and field and cross country programs in high regard, and so improving the facilities available to programs is top priority in his endeavor to improve the university (and school).
“My hope is that this project will bless the lives of hundreds of athletes over the next decade,” says Don, “and that it will be a great benefit to students and community alike.” To this end, the Walker Foundation has set aside additional funds for the facility in the form of a challenge grant. “I want others to join, work together and make this dream happen.” Given how many people have experienced the transformative power of SAU, Don will soon have all the help necessary for making this dream a reality. We urge you to join in, too.