By: Sam Klee '16
Under the guidance of President Norbert Hruby in the 1970s, Aquinas became a driving force in the creation of the Eastown neighborhood near Aquinas’ campus. As the neighborhood has continued to grow through the decades, so has Aquinas’ commitment to Eastown’s vitality. Students, faculty, and staff continually work in collaboration with area organizations to support and enrich the Eastown community, a relationship recently exhibited by the Aquinas men’s hockey team.
On January 8, 2014, the Eastown Community Association constructed a new, public ice rink in Wilcox Park, adjacent to the Aquinas campus. While generously sponsored by local businesses, the endeavor was still in need of volunteers to finish. Heeding the call, the Aquinas men’s hockey team offered their services.
Hockey coach Mark VanVliet emphasized the team’s willingness to engage the Eastown community, to foster and reinforce the relationship between Aquinas and its neighbors. “We’re looking forward to working with the residents from the area,” said VanVliet, “making the rink something they can utilize. We have a number of students living and renting in Eastown - they’re part of that community. It’s a natural fit; anything we can do from an athletics and collegiate standpoint, to strengthen ties with folks who live in that area, is going to pay long-term dividends for both the College and the community.”
Charlie Crowley, a freshman member of the hockey team, emphasized the potential held by the collaboration, its mutual benefits to Aquinas and the surrounding neighborhood. “I think it’s a good opportunity to interact with the people who live in Eastown, people who visit the area, and for them to interact with us as college students. We’re happy to help in any way possible, and to give the community an opportunity to skate and enjoy this cold weather!”
“Whenever we have a chance to become involved with a project that reflects positively on the College,” said VanVliet, “we’re more than interested and happy to help! If we can assist, show them we’re responsible and want to help, that there are great benefits to having a college nearby - anytime we can improve those relationships is a good opportunity!”
Having successfully finished construction, the rink serves as a new asset to the Eastown community, and a testament of Aquinas students’ commitment to service.