The crowd stood in the shadow of Hoff Hall, tailgating before the official start to the Spartan football season. In the distance, the steady rhythmic beat of drums could be heard, broken by the enthusiastic call of “CU!” as the marching band made their way across campus.
And Dave Wolk, former president of Castleton University, was shaking hands and presenting ‘the Castleton way,’ as he always did during his tenure.
This time, however, Wolk was present for a different reason. The football stadium on the other side of the pavilion was being dedicated to him, shortly before kickoff.
“Without Dave’s vision and determination, football would not be a reality here,” current Castleton president Karen Scolforo said during her remarks in the ceremony. “The stadium itself represents so much more than a venue for just one team.”
Wolk understood, she said, that a building such as the stadium would offer a path to Castleton for many who otherwise never would have visited. When Wolk proposed the idea of bringing football to Castleton, associate dean for athletics Deanna Tyson thought he was joking.
“Who could think about housing a football team with the facilities we had at that time?” she said. “A year or so later, Dave approached me again, and asked me what we needed to have on our campus to sponsor an NCAA football team.”
It took several months of research, Tyson said, including driving around in school vans to tour other colleges in the area, and making presentations to the Board of Trustees, to make Wolk’s vision a reality.
“I finally stopped calling football, ‘the f-word,’” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Chancellor Jeb Spaulding opened his remarks by talking about how, in 1923, after Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the new Yankee Stadium, the stadium earned the name “The House that Ruth Built.”
“It would be no overstatement to say that this stadium is ‘The House that Wolk Built.’” Spaulding said to applause from the audience.
He said there was no doubt that the stadium wouldn’t exist without Wolk, and that the stadium helped transform Castleton from “good” to “great.” And according to Spaulding, Wolk had to battle against big odds to make the stadium a reality.
“It could be that this stadium is the cherry on top of Dave’s Castleton sundae,” Spaulding said. “But it’s only one of the transformational achievements that was led by Dave.”
The other achievements included the renovated Campus Center, completed in 2009, the newest residence hall, Hoff Hall, state of the art exercise facilities, and the pavilion. But Spaulding said that these are only a few of Wolk’s achievements.
Churchill Hindes, chair of the VSC Board of Trustees, said that following Wolk’s announcement of his retirement, the board took up the challenge of what on campus to name after him.
“I wanted the dome on top of the Old Chapel to become ‘Dave’s Dome,’” he said jokingly to the amusement of the audience.
Hindes said that the board had to consider what at Castleton would work, and then it was decided there was only one place big enough to hold Wolk’s heart and love for Castleton.
“That one place that’s big enough is this stadium,” he said.
With a drumroll from the marching band, the gray cloth came down. Just under the Spartan logo, in green letters, read “Dave Wolk Stadium.” Then, Wolk took the podium.
“Hello, my friends,” he said with a smile. “Keep smiling.”
Wolk said that he was grateful for the attendance of the student athletes and that Castleton has always been, and always will be, the ‘small university with the big heart.’
“My only regret here is that there are two people who are not here today to listen to all these embellishments,” he said.
Those two people are his father, who died in November of 2016 and bled 343 green, and his mother, who is battling with Alzheimer’s disease in Florida.
For Wolk, the “Castleton Way” – doing the right thing when nobody is watching, holding the door for people – is still present at the university.
“It is so heartwarming that it continues,” he said. “The stadium, the athletic complex, the university together embodies the best of the human spirit. No one person, certainly not me, is responsible for such success.”