“I can’t believe this is Mount Marty’s.”
That comment was made by a student on first entering the new Ruth Donohoe First Dakota Fieldhouse last month, said Mount Marty University (MMU) president Marcus Long at the Fieldhouse ribbon cutting Friday.
“Well, it is a reality,” Long told the assembled group of donors, students, alumni and families at the brief outdoor, socially-distanced ceremony. “Current and future students will benefit from it. It’s a dream that’s become reality and it’s a place where the best college memories will be made.”
Sister Maribeth Wentzlaff, prioress of Yankton’s Benedictine Sacred Heart Monastery began the event with a blessing on the new fieldhouse, which has been under construction since the spring of 2019.
Jerry Donohoe, one of three brothers who contributed the founding gift for the fieldhouse in memory of their mother, Ruth Donohoe, also addressed the group.
“I’m here to celebrate the opening of the athletic facility, representing my two brothers, Jim and George, and honoring the memory of Ruth Donohoe, who identified so closely with Mount Marty and the Yankton community,” he said.
Jerry added that he was speaking for his brothers, who died in 2018, and were not able see the finished project. Donohoe spoke about his mother, who taught at Mount Marty for many years, and her impact on her three sons for those who did not know her.
First Dakota National Bank was the other main contributor to the fieldhouse, and was represented at Friday’s ribbon cutting by bank President Rob Stevenson.
“For a community bank like First Dakota headquartered here in town, it really wasn’t a tough decision for us to make a large contribution to this project,” he said. “That’s because we know that our bank and so many others here in the community will benefit so much from this facility.
“When Mount Marty benefits from something, the whole community gets stronger.”
Emily Dorn, an athlete and a sophomore at MMU, gave a student perspective on the new fieldhouse.
She explained how, as a member of the new cheer and dance team at MMU, the team had to drive to Yankton High School to practice because there was no space on campus.
“You can only imagine our excitement when the plans were unveiled for the fieldhouse,” Dorn said. “Space for us to practice here on campus was a dream come true — not only for us but for a lot of other sports as well.”
Other teams, including the football team, are using the indoor track, fitness center and athletic training room, Dorn noted.
“I know the fieldhouse is new, but I can tell you that it is a blessing for athletes, non-athletes and faculty alike,” she said. “Physical wellness is important to us, and we now have a welcoming and functioning facility for all to use. Thank you.”
MMU president Marcus Long spoke last with a few words about the Mounty Marty community and the Yankton community.
“Certainly, the growth that Mount Marty has seen in the past few years has been tremendous,” he said. “Today, we’re happy to reach a new milestone of enrollment growth by welcoming the largest freshman class in our 84-year history.”
Mount Marty has grown 11% in the last four years, he said.
“I would challenge you to find another university or college in rural America, that’s grown that much during these challenging times,” Long said. “This integration between Mount Marty University and the community of Yankton is real and Mount Marty is going to be successful only if Yankton sees the good things happening here and continues to support it.”