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New Organization to Boost UCR Sports


New Organization to Boost UCR Sports

Highlander Athletics Association aims to build regional support for student athletes.

(August 12, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – As UC Riverside teams increasingly look to contend for conference titles, community leaders are forming a new organization to build regional support for the Division 1 athletics program that has produced championships in baseball, men’s golf, and women’s basketball and soccer, and individual national honors for athletes in a variety of sports.

The Highlander Athletics Association will raise money to support student-athletes, but more importantly will work to build excitement and a fan base for UCR teams, said Amy Harrison, a UCR sports legend who will chair the association’s board and executive committee.

“There’s no comparison to playing your heart out in a gym with 150 people watching to 1,500 people watching,” said Harrison, who lettered in five sports while attending UCR from 1968 to 1972. She was inducted into the UCR Hall of Fame in 1986. “You give that little extra because you’re doing this for your fans as much as for yourself. I came away from UCR loving my experience as a student athlete. I want athletes playing their hearts out now to walk away with a positive experience.”

Harrison, who was the CEO of a publicly traded company, said her experiences as a student-athlete contributed to her successes in business. Today she is the CEO of Altus, a consulting and management company that works with emotionally disturbed children and adolescents and their families.

“This university gave me my self-confidence and made me feel there was nothing I couldn’t do,” Harrison said.

The Highlander Athletics Association will raise the profile of athletics at UCR, the only Division 1 university in the Inland area, said Nick Goldware, a member of the organization’s executive committee and chair of the UCR Foundation. He is executive vice president of HUB International.

“Athletics in our society get a lot of attention and can be a window into the university from the community,” he said. “When we have success it’s easier for some people to identify with our university.”

With recent successes of women’s basketball and men’s baseball teams, a strong coaching staff and promising new athletes, the time is right to build partnerships between the university and community, Harrison and Goldware said.

“You don’t have to go to L.A. to see quality athletic events,” Harrison said.

The Highlander Athletics Association will help position the university to achieve its goals in athletics, said Julie Hall, associate director of athletics for development.

“We need to mirror the vision the institution has for itself,” she said. “You can have great professors, great labs and great programs. If people see us as an outstanding athletics program, that will positively reflect on the institution.”

UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White said intercollegiate athletics play an important role in the life of a university and welcomed the formation of the association.

“As a Division I institution, the University of California, Riverside must field teams that are competitive, providing the resources necessary to help our student-athletes succeed,” he said. “The association will play a significant role in making that happen, by helping to raise funds and build support in the community for our teams.

“I am grateful for the commitment and dedication of the community leaders who have agreed to serve on the board,” White said. “I am especially thankful for the leadership of Amy Harrison. She was a star student-athlete as an undergraduate here and remains an avid fan. I look forward to working with the association to build on the successes of our program, enhance the university experience for our student-athletes, and create a legacy of excellence of which we can all be proud.”

The executive committee is meeting monthly as it works to assemble a full board. In addition to Harrison and Goldware, executive committee members include: Virginia Blumenthal, president of Blumenthal Law Offices; Jack Clarke, partner in Best Best & Krieger law firm; Jim Erickson, president of the Community Foundation in Riverside; Susan Rainey, retired superintendent of the Riverside Unified School district; Jim Robinson, chairman and CEO of Security Bank in Riverside; Cindy Roth, president of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce; Tito Saldana, owner of aTEN Construction in Highland; Jack Smitheran, former longtime UCR baseball coach; and Nick Tavaglione, owner of Nick Tavaglione Construction.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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