ST. BONAVENTURE - Once again, Lakewood native Tom Marra has stepped to the plate and hit a home run for his beloved alma mater.
Marra, class of 1980, and his wife, Michelle, are donating $1 million to jump-start the $3 million campaign for construction of St. Bonaventure University's new athletic fields complex.
The project includes artificial turf, seating and media facilities on both the soccer/lacrosse field and the softball field. Lighting will be installed at the soccer/lacrosse field, which also can be used by club and intramural teams, such as rugby.
The announcement was made at a university fundraising event last week in New York City.
Six years ago, the Marras donated $900,000 to develop the university's field-turf baseball complex, called Fred Handler Park at McGraw-Jennings Field. Tom Marra was a former third baseman for the Bonnies and played for Coach Handler.
The Marras' two gifts are the largest ever given to St. Bonaventure's Department of Athletics. The entire three-field complex will be named for the Marras, but naming opportunities are still available for the softball and soccer/lacrosse fields.
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''Michele and I are thrilled to give back to St. Bonaventure University,'' said Marra, president and chief executive officer of Symetra Financial Corp. ''Athletics have been a huge part of my life and college career. It's very important to us to ensure quality athletic facilities and operating support for our student-athletes and coaches
''We hope this gift will assist in strengthening our position in the Atlantic 10 and the NCAA, as well as inspiring other alumni and friends of the university to help us reach our goal.''
A university trustee from 2003 to 2012, Marra worked for 30 years at Hartford Life Inc., eventually rising in 2002 to president and chief operating officer of the 8,000-employee insurance firm.
In May 2010, Marra was named president and CEO of Symetra, a diversified financial services company based in Bellevue, Wash.
''Tom and Michelle's generosity to St. Bonaventure University, and in particular to the Athletics Department, is incredible,'' said Steve Watson, SBU's athletic director. ''The Marras' commitment will provide the main impetus to the field project fundraising, which is critical not only to athletics, but to the university as a whole.
''They have made a significant impact for future Bonnies student-athletes who will reap the benefits. We are grateful for Tom and Michelle's support for so many years.''
The $3 million athletics field complex is one of the first projects in a proposed $18.8 million athletics facility upgrade at the university, and part of a global strategic plan for the Athletics Department, dubbed ''Your Teams - Our Extraordinary Future.'' Fundraising for a $300,000 locker room for women's basketball has already topped $233,000.
The eight-pronged strategic plan also looks at strengthening NCAA compliance; academic performance of student-athletes; annual revenue; fundraising; enrollment and retention; athletic team performance; and staff compensation.