New athletics campaign: game-changer for all Lakers

For nearly a century, the Mercyhurst gates have remained open to all those striving for greatness.

In the realm of athletics, nothing could be more apparent. From the classroom to the weight room, to the ice, hardwood and field, Mercyhurst student-athletes embrace a tradition of excellence.

This devotion unites us all as Lakers and marks the foundation for our newest endeavor: Laker for Life – The Campaign for Mercyhurst Athletics.

With $5 million already pledged, Mercyhurst announced a $9.5 million campaign for athletics in partnership with Mercyhurst Preparatory School during a Feb. 5, 2019, news conference. The announcement recognized the generosity of William and Betsy Vorsheck for their gift of $4 million, which will afford a significant investment in the athletic infrastructure shared by both schools.

Betsy Hirt Vorsheck is a board member of Erie Insurance and a 1973 Mercyhurst Prep graduate as well as a 1977 graduate of Mercyhurst University. In recognition of the magnitude of their generosity, Mercyhurst intends to name its new and upgraded facilities The William Vorsheck Jr. Athletic Complex.

Mercyhurst Trustee and Athletics Campaign Chair John Saxon, a 1989 graduate from Hudson, Ohio, has gifted an additional $1 million toward the campaign. His donation is targeted toward improvements at Tullio Field, situated within what will become known as Saxon Stadium.

“We are extraordinarily grateful to Bill and Betsy Vorsheck and John and Patty Saxon for making an investment that will heighten the athletics experience for our fans and student-athletes and further enhance the Carpe Diem spirit that is signature Mercyhurst,” said university President Michael T. Victor. “As two institutions born of the mission of the Sisters of Mercy, Mercyhurst and Mercyhurst Prep celebrate a unique partnership that further aligns our commitment to each other and to our respective communities.”  

Likewise, Mercyhurst Prep President Ed Curtin had this to say: “We are so grateful for all that the Vorshecks have done to help bring transformational change to MPS. This is yet another indication of their great faith in the mission that drives our two schools. Together, we continue to be a true asset to the entire Erie region and, indeed, the world. Our student-athletes, and our entire community, will certainly benefit from the largess of the Vorshecks and the Saxons and the many generous donors who will follow.”

Besides enriching the varsity student-athlete experience, organizers intend the campaign to create opportunities for more students to participate in club sports and intramurals, generate enrollment growth for both institutions, and improve the overall fan experience.

The announcement also represented the public kickoff of the university’s broader athletics fundraiser: “Laker for Life: The Campaign for Mercyhurst Athletics,” which aims to raise another $4.5 million toward assorted upgrades.

Shared features of the campaign include:

  • The addition of new synthetic turf surfaces to the multi-purpose field in Saxon Stadium, which serves football, lacrosse and field hockey, and the baseball/soccer field; also aesthetic and safety improvements to enhance the spectator experience;
  • Construction of a new field for softball/soccer on the southwest campus, which will be used by both schools and provide for the addition of JV women’s soccer at the university;
  • Installation of LED lighting at the complex, which will afford extended time for practices and games;
  • Expansion of locker room facilities to improve the experience for both schools as well as youth leagues and other groups that use the Mercyhurst Ice Center;
  • Improvements to training facilities on campus used by the highly accomplished rowing programs at both Mercyhurst and Mercyhurst Prep, including upgrades to the tanks used in winter training.

Other improvements are:

  • Upgrades to the Mercyhurst Ice Center’s current cooling system, and the addition of new dasher boards, glass and suite seating to improve the spectator experience;
  • Major overhaul of the Mercyhurst Athletic Center, including a new and expanded gym floor that will provide opportunities for more tournaments and recreational programming, seating renovations, and new scoreboards.

Mercyhurst University maintains 25 varsity sports, the most of any institution in the region, with more than 25 percent of its students participating. Further, its student-athletes maintain consistent success in the classroom, leading the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) with an Academic Success Rate (ASR) of 89 percent, according to most recent calculations. The Lakers led the PSAC for the fourth time in five years.

Among those individuals at the helm of the athletics campaign are Cal Pifer, Mercyhurst University vice president for external relations and advancement; Ryan Palm, associate vice president for advancement; Laura Zirkle, vice president for student life; and Athletic Director Brad Davis.