At the beginning of a new athletic season, returning Freed-Hardeman University soccer players and fans have been welcomed back to the Josh Riley Soccer Complex to find even more improved facilities, made possible by several families of generous supporters.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony held Saturday, Sept. 2, recognized the naming and dedication of Walker-Patterson Field, named in honor of Michael (’08) and Lori (Walker, ’09) Patterson, their late son, Walker and the Walker family; Craft Field, named in memory of David Craft (’78); and Kersey Lane, named in honor of Will (’07) and Sarah (Saunders, ’09) Kersey and in memory of their mother, Tina Kersey.
These latest facility improvements will also continue to honor the legacy of former FHU soccer player Josh Riley, for whom the entire complex is named. Josh’s parents, Clay and LaChon Riley, along with his friends and family, have been pivotal in establishing a soccer program that is highly respected in the region. The Riley family has worked tirelessly to support the FHU soccer complex through the years, personally donating funds and helping to raise needed support for amenities such as new lights, a press box and bleachers. Head men’s soccer coach, Jason Elliott, said that he will “always remember the life and sacrifice of Josh, as well as the example that he leaves behind.”
“At a time when our school is reaching toward new goals, we are immensely blessed to have generous and dedicated alumni continuing to move FHU upward and forward,” FHU President David R. Shannon said. “We want to thank and honor these families, as well as the loved ones they thoughtfully represent.”
The donor families were invited to a luncheon hosted by Shannon prior to the ceremony. The ribbon-cutting took place at mid-field between Saturday’s Lady Lion and Lion soccer games. In attendance on the field were the Patterson, Walker, Kersey and Craft families, along with both teams, coaches, FHU Athletic Director Jonathan Estes, President and Tracie Shannon, and Senior Vice President Dave Clouse.
“We want to give our student-athletes the chance to develop their God-given abilities for His glory, and the contributions by these families help us do that in an even better way,” Estes said. “God continues to bless us with special student-athletes, supporters, coaches and alumni. It is incredible to be a part of such a great family.”
Gifts given by the donor families have been used to make numerous practical and aesthetic improvements to the Josh Riley Soccer Complex. These improvements include: new signage and landscaping; the addition of Kersey Lane and the archway entering the complex; new fencing, top dressing, drainage, sod, crowning and grading for Walker-Patterson field; new drainage in front of the press box; new top dressing and lighting for Craft practice field; and a new paved parking lot with updated walkway.
Each of these upgrades has been part of the ongoing FHU NEXT campaign, continuing toward the goal of enhancing the student experience on campus. Other intercollegiate athletic campaign projects include improvements to Five Wells Field and the Bennett Press Box for baseball, and the Rayla Tucker Black Field and the Chalmers Club House for softball.
“The legacy of these gifts will be felt for generations; it is difficult to put into words the impact they will have,” Elliott said. “The Lion and Lady Lion soccer teams are able to play the sport they love on an improved pitch, and we are grateful on a daily basis. Players from all over the world and the United States who come here each year will be impacted not only by the people they are around but also by those donors who have given so much.”
The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees.