Construction to Begin on Turf Field at Wellesley This Summer

A ribbon cutting ceremony at the Butler Boathouse
Image credit: Rafa Tasneem ’17
January 30, 2019

After the final whistle blows this spring at Wellesley’s turf field, construction is planned to update the facility and further the mission of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics (PERA), thanks to the generosity of Alice Lehmann Butler ’53 and her husband, John Butler, a 1952 graduate of neighboring Babson College.

The Butlers have become synonymous with fitness and wellness at Wellesley, advancing the College’s commitment to the well-being of women and helping future generations of women leaders. Their gifts have supported the maintenance of the cardio equipment in the Keohane Sports Center Fitness Center, the endowment of the Butler Director of Sports Performance and Fitness position, currently held by Rebecca Kimball, and the renovation of what is now the Butler Boathouse on Lake Waban in 2015.

“Wellesley is doing a remarkable job emphasizing wellness, more so than a lot of other places,” said John Butler. “Wellness and fitness are a perfect fit for developing strong leaders at Wellesley, absolutely essential. Energy and stamina are required characteristics of a leader’s makeup. A leader without stamina will not be effective.”

The College’s well-worn turf field will be replaced with a new turf and lights that will benefit Blue student-athletes while increasing campus-wide wellness opportunities for all students. Other generous donors, including Suzanne Sandman Pasko ’90 and Trustee Christopher T. Pasko, join the Butlers in the renovation project.

“We hope Wellesley continues to place a high emphasis on the wellness of the students,” said the Butlers, in a statement. “Wellness is important, not just to have the energy to be a leader, but simply to lead an effective life for your family and for people near you—all of that is necessary to be a successful member of society. It takes a great deal of deliberate effort.”

Alice Butler was already making that effort as a student at Wellesley. “I used to get up at 5 a.m. and go rowing!” said Alice. “The opportunity to row was terrific, it meant a lot to be out on the water and working.”

The Butlers’ fitness routine still includes morning stretching, bicycling, and the occasional downhill skiing run. After all, “you have got to have some fun,” said John.

Fifteen years ago, the Butlers’ dedication to their own physical fitness proved lifesaving. “We were in a very serious auto accident while traveling in Morocco,” said John, who, like Alice, suffered multiple broken bones. “We were told later that our recovery, which took many, many months, would not have occurred had we both not been in excellent shape physically before the accident.”

While on campus for reunion in 2008, the Butlers met with Bridget Belgiovine, director of athletics and chair of the PERA department, as they toured PERA’s facilities, including the previously outdated boathouse on Lake Waban. Like the Butlers, Belgiovine has advocated integrating wellness programming into the life of the College throughout her 13-year tenure.

“Bridget has been a critical part of our enthusiasm for supporting wellness at Wellesley,” said the Butlers. “Her leadership for wellness and fitness at Wellesley, both in boosting participation as well as developing comprehensiveness of the programs, have been huge. It takes a leader, and Bridget demonstrates that well.”

Belgiovine, who will retire in June, shares the Butlers’ passion for fitness, stressing its importance in a strong liberal arts education.

“Alice and John are incredible role models for the value of regular physical fitness and its importance for leading and living a long, healthy life,” said Belgiovine. “Their passion for fitness was clear from the moment we met, and their commitment to wellness was matched only by their incredible generosity.”

Project planning for Butler Stadium, as the facility will be named, is still underway. 

Photo: Bridget Belgiovine, Alice Lehmann Butler ’53 and her husband, John Butler (pictured left to right) mark the opening of the Butler Boathouse in 2015 at a ribbon cutting ceremony.