Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2016 Western Nevada College baseball and softball seasons, which are the last for WNC athletics, the Appeal has been featuring columns every Sunday from those who are sharing their memories of the programs. This is the final column of the series.
I was born and raised in Carson City; I have watched Western Nevada Community College (WNCC) grow from its humble beginnings in the basement of the Civic Auditorium to its present location. While in high school, the perception of having to go to “Harvard on the Hill” (WNCC) was depressing at best — “do I have to go there?”
A comment that resonated with my parents, so off I went to the University of the Pacific, returning back to Carson City four years later with a bachelor of arts degree. Finding employment in Reno, I moved to the big city, returning back to Carson City nine years later. Taking over the family business in 1996, I began to get involved in giving back to my hometown. A graduate of Leadership Carson City (2002), I was ready to immerse myself with giving back and getting involved. I was invited by my friend Sally Zola, to attend a WNCC Foundation meeting to see what I thought.
Wow, what happened to “Harvard on the Hill?” I was amazed there was a new observatory and there also was an athletic component with men’s baseball and women’s soccer. There was now a school I would have been proud to have attended. Not being an athlete or even remotely interested in baseball, I found myself involved in something bigger. I understood what athletics can do for any school and the community as a whole. I found a way to give back and get involved.
After two years of being on the board, and the donor relations committee, I made a six-year commitment to be on the executive board.
I was privileged enough to attend Coffee with Carol events every quarter at the Carson, Fallon and Douglas campuses, not missing one in eight years. It was always amazing to see what was happening at all three campuses. While chair, I attended every single committee meeting as well as all of the quarterly Foundation meetings in Fallon, Douglas and Carson. While on the Donor Relations committee I wrote many thank you letters to donors who contributed to the college (employee deductions, scholarships, observatory, Douglas and Fallon Campuses, Dugout Club etc.); attending the annual dinner at the Peppermill, the yearly golf tournament, along with the constant fundraising functions. What an honor that was to serve in those capacities.
You can imagine when I heard they were going to cancel the athletic programs at WNC in February of 2015, I was absolutely shocked. There were a handful of people here in Carson who were also shocked. So we thought, GAMEON! We can do this! Within two weeks we formed a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation called the Athletic Foundation of Western Nevada (AFWN), with $25,000 in the bank and another $95,000 in pledges over the next five years. Not bad for six days of fundraising!
During the next three months, the AFWN encountered nothing but road blocks with an apparent unwillingness from the college to support our efforts or to even say “you have our blessing.” In April, Interim President Chester Burton told the AFWN, the only way for the programs to be saved, was to have $750,000 sourced in pledges and cash by the end of May. Prior to that, the AFWN was willing to repair the infield, help find funding for a softball field and raise $150,000 per year in operating costs. I found it interesting half of the student athletes came from out of state, something that couldn’t have happened at “Harvard on the Hill.”
Sorry to say our attempts to keep athletics alive, our willingness to help the college, and to continue to be part of their continued success has come to an end. I hope high school graduates from our state won’t be saying “please don’t make me go to Harvard on the Hill.”
Best to WNC and all of the wonderful students, volunteers, and faculty who all help Carson City be the best it can be. It was a good run.
John “Jed” Block is past president of the Western Nevada College Foundation and a former 10-year board member and co-founder of AFWN.