By Jesse Wood
Appalachian State University formally announced a $10 million gift from alumnus Mark Ricks to support ASU Athletics and its ‘Mountaineer Impact’ initiative on Thursday afternoon inside the Holmes Convocation Center.
This gift is the university’s largest outright gift to date.
On hand were dozens of App State athletes, Yosef Club supporters and university officials such as Chancellor Sheri Everts and Director of Athletics Doug Gillin, who gave brief remarks along with Ricks at the ceremony.
Before introducing Ricks, Everts called the gift “transformational” for App State Athletics and the fundraising initiative.
“Our student athletes are among the most academically successful in the nation and the generous gift will ensure continued excellence of a program that will attract sought-after student athletes and provide them with the resources and opportunities, so they can make a difference at our university and beyond,” Everts said.
From northern Virginia, Ricks graduated from App State in 1989. He then went on to work at Vance International, a security firm, until 2005. He then became director of global protective operations for Mars, Inc., where he worked until 2017. Now retired, Ricks is the owner of Double Wood Farm, an equestrian sanctuary for retired show horses in Bluemont, Virginia.
“It’s my pleasure to be here and for the opportunity to do what I am doing today. This university means a lot to me. I have this life, I believe, because of this place,” Ricks said.
Ricks said that he was an absent alumnus for a long time and “hadn’t been writing checks like I should have been.” It was about a year ago when he was watching the App State – Tennessee matchup on TV. He looked over at his future son-in-law and said, “How about we go to Boone for a football game?”
Well, he looked into getting tickets and said, “It was a bit of a challenge. So I thought what about making a contribution.” That led to a phone conversation with Brian Tracy, senior associate athletic director for external affairs.
Tracy invited Ricks down to Boone. He met and hung out with other Yosef Club members and major supporters like Tommy Sofield and university officials such as Everts and Gillin. Soon, Ricks said, “I was hooked.”
“This isn’t about us old timers sitting up here. It’s about you guys, giving you the opportunity, the facilities, the medical training, the support staff to make your time here special and obviously to make this university one of the best and top universities in the United States,” Ricks said.
Gillin took his time to talk briefly about the “Mountaineer Impact” initiative and thank Ricks for his generous contribution and for “believing in the student athletes here at Appalachian.”
Gillin said that when App State Athletics introduced the $60 million initiative in February of this year, it would require some big contributions. So far, alumni have donated $27 million to the “Mountaineer Impact” initiative.
“Mark has really kind of supercharged our efforts but not slowed our efforts. The momentum is just getting started,” Gillin said.
He added, “This really is not just about athletics. We really think this provides an opportunity for all of Appalachian to kind of see the great things that are happening on our campus that doesn’t include athletics.”
According to the university, funds will be used to establish and endow scholarships, construct and enhance facilities, and underwrite program needs to increase opportunities for comprehensive excellence for all Appalachian student-athletes.
This initiative is responsible for this summer’s improvements at Kidd Brewer Stadium and the Holmes Convocation Center, including the new scoreboard at The Rock and the center-hung display in the Holmes Center.