JACKSON, Tenn. – May 28, 2010 – Union University dedicated the new Smith Memorial Soccer Complex in a special ceremony May 21.
Named in honor of the late Frank Smith, the facility consists of two lighted competition fields, which have been in use since 2005. Bleachers to accommodate 1,000 spectators, a press box, concession stand and restroom facilities now complete the facility.
Smith’s wife, Nancy Smith New, and sons were on hand for the dedication.
“Thank you for your kindness and generosity to this university,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “We are so grateful for your friendship.”
New moved to Jackson six years ago, and she soon found a church home with caring members who helped her adjust to a new life in the wake of her late husband Frank’s long battle with cancer.
The close-knit congregation at Humboldt’s Antioch Baptist Church became like a second family.
“They were just the nicest people I’d ever met, and so many had connections to Union,” said New, who recently remarried and moved to Panama City, Fla. “I kept hearing about Union this and Union that. I heard a lot about their basketball teams.”
But the discussions about Union – to which New had no prior connection – took on added significance following the February tornado that devastated the campus in 2008. New says she missed a service at Antioch in which a special offering was taken for Union’s disaster relief fund, so she made it a point to send her own contribution and observe the recovery efforts, which she describes as impressive.
Soon after she decided to move to Florida, New says she also chose to give her home to charity rather than selling it.
“I started realizing how many people in my church had attended Union,” New said. “They want to send their children and grandchildren there, too. Even though I have only been on the campus twice, I fell in love with it.”
After consulting with her two grown sons, she donated the home to Union. The property was sold and the proceeds were used toward completion of the soccer complex.
New says her younger son played youth soccer for many years, and the family frequently attended professional soccer matches in Memphis. But New did not want a role in determining how the money would be spent. She insisted that her gift come with “no strings attached.”
“You all know what you need,” New said. “I felt better giving an unrestricted gift.”
“It’s kind of unusual to receive an undesignated gift in that amount,” said Gary Williams, associate vice president for alumni services and the Union contact who worked with New. “I assured her we would use it wisely.”
So when the men’s and women’s soccer teams take the field this fall, they will play home matches in the new Smith Memorial Soccer Complex.
Union soccer fans can thank a woman who wanted to honor her late husband’s memory and invest in a school that she could see making a difference in the lives of her friends.
“I came in through the back door,” New said. “I read and I observed. And I just decided I couldn’t find a better place to give my money.”
By Mark Kahler
Associate Vice President for University Communications