The Colby community celebrated its winter sports traditions during a gathering of students, families, alumni, and friends December 3, highlighted by thrilling victories and the long-awaited dedications of the Margaret M. Crook Center and the O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum and Jack Kelley Rink.
The full day and evening of activities attended by thousands fulfilled President David A. Greene’s original vision for the state-of-the-art Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center as a place for community and athletic excellence. Those who attended watched squash, swimming and diving, hockey, and basketball, reconnected with friends, and toured the athletics complex, which opened in 2020.
The College also unveiled murals on the walls of the O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum that tell in photos and text the histories of the men’s and women’s hockey programs, both of which celebrate milestone seasons. This is the 100th season for the men’s hockey program and the 50th year of women’s hockey at Colby. In the afternoon, the women’s ice hockey team beat Bowdoin to remain undefeated on the season. That evening, the men’s team mounted a thrilling three-goal, third-period comeback to beat Bowdoin, also leaving the Mules with a perfect season record so far.
The men’s basketball team got in on the action, notching a victory while downing Brandeis.
Among those who attended were donors and trustees Jack O’Neil ’77, Timothy O’Donnell ’87, and Jim Crook ’78, P’11, and their families. Their generous gifts helped build the new athletics complex. All are former athletes, who said their time competing in sports at Colby shaped their lives.
O’Neil was a senior captain under men’s hockey coach Jack Kelley during Kelley’s one-year return to Mayflower Hill in 1976-77, following a long tenure in the 1960s and ’70s. That single season playing for the U.S. Hockey hall-of-famer changed O’Neil’s life. “Jack Kelley was a wonderful coach, a great mentor, and he became a very good friend,” he said.
O’Neil and his wife, Carol, increased their philanthropy to help build the athletic complex and name the rink after Kelley, whose family attended the festivities. Their gift also endowed the Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men’s Hockey, now filled by Blaise MacDonald. “We did it to honor my coach and friend and all he did for the Colby hockey program,” O’Neil said.
O’Donnell, who played basketball, made lead gifts for the O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum and to endow the Richard L. Whitmore Jr. Head Coach for Colby Men’s Basketball in honor of the longtime coach and Maine Basketball Hall of Famer. The position is filled by Damien Strahorn ’02. Whitmore also attended the gathering.
“Because of Coach Whitmore, I have relationships with and am friends with basketball players who played in the 1970s all the way up through the 2000s,” O’Donnell said. It was that spirit of generational community that motivated O’Donnell and his family to make their gift.
“I see the forum as a gathering spot for the entire community, and it just happens to be the place where hockey is played,” he said. “It draws hockey players and fans, residents of the community who want to use the rink, and it introduces students to ice skating. The forum strengthens the Colby community.”
Crook and his wife, Andrea Crook P’11, made the naming gift for the Crook Center to honor Crook’s mother, Margaret, who instilled and encouraged community within her family and circle of friends. “The community that Colby fosters and that exists and is allowed to grow within that new athletics center is exactly who my mother was,” Crook said.
He hopes the gift enables current and future Colby students—and fans—to enjoy their athletic experience as much as he did.
“Playing varsity sports at Colby is something I will cherish forever,” he said. “It was a tremendous experience, and it also taught me a lot of values that I have applied in my life. Those values range from the need to prepare, the work ethic that is required to deliver what is expected, the ability to understand and collaborate, both as a follower and a leader, and a sense of excellence.”
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