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Purdue soccer stadium has familiar name
By Steve Clark - Monday, November 7, 2016 8:10 AM
Originally published Oct. 3, 2016.
When Matt Folk was a student at Purdue University, he aspired to see his name on more than just a diploma.
“Kind of one of my goals when I graduated from college was to eventually have my name on a building,” shares the 1991 Purdue grad.
This year, Folk finally achieved that goal. The Huntington native made a significant financial pledge to Purdue’s under-construction football performance complex, as well as its soccer program. Because of that generosity, he was given the opportunity to rename the school’s soccer complex.
The facility’s new moniker?
Folk did much more than just satisfy a longtime goal, though. The complete name of the complex is “Loren and Donna Folk Field,” which he named in honor of his father and mother. Folk titled it as such to recognize them for the positive example they set as parents.
“Both mom and dad were 4-H leaders,” says Folk. “And dad, even though he was traveling continuously, was always our baseball, football, basketball coach and all that kind of stuff, down at the park. They both taught Sunday school.”
Folk notes that his mother taught children every other day of the week, too. She was a first-grade teacher at Huntington’s Riley Elementary School and remained committed to educating, even after she became a full-time parent to Folk and his sister, Jennie. He relates that she often went about that educating in clever ways.
“She did a lot of tutoring of kids in the neighborhood and stuff,” he explains. “We had a pool, so all summer long they would come over and she would do a lot of tutoring to try and get them caught up in reading and math and that sort of thing before she’d let them swim.”
While Folk’s mother looked after others, his father looked after her. Donna Folk was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in her early 20s. Loren Folk became her primary caregiver and remained in that role until her passing in 2006 at the age of 62.
“They really gave Jennie and I a great model for how to live your life with a debilitating disability like muscular dystrophy, how to do it well, how to raise kids well, how to not let that be an excuse,” Folk says.
Folk, who now resides in the Westfield area, is the president of the Boiler Business Exchange of Indianapolis, a nonprofit organization that promotes Purdue in central Indiana. When he learned of his alma mater’s interest in constructing a $70 million complex dedicated to football, he and peers from the exchange answered the call to donate.
“There’s a couple guys that are not only in the Boiler Business Exchange, but they’re also in their forties,” says Folk, “and we felt it was important for that generation to kind of start stepping up and helping lead.
“So, we gave some lead gifts and helped out football and then also helped out individual sports. Soccer was the one that I picked.”
For Folk, supporting soccer was an easy choice. While most colleges feature both men’s and women’s soccer teams, Purdue only fields a women’s squad. After watching his sister excel as an athlete in high school, followed by his own daughter years later, he became a faithful backer of women’s athletics.
Folk met with representatives from Purdue’s athletic department last year and together they drew up a donation plan. While his contribution to football went toward the aforementioned complex, his donation to soccer went into the general fund, with the team being able to access it any time it needs to make upgrades to its facility.
After Folk selected a new name for the soccer complex and approved designs for the subsequent rebranding process, he awaited its transformation. Early this past summer, while golfing with friends on Purdue’s course, which lies near the soccer field, he finally got to see the end result.
“It was cool to round the corner with the guys I was playing golf with and see the signs up when I didn’t know it was there yet,” remarks Folk.
He didn’t delay in contacting his father. He invited him to Purdue, but invented a reason for the trip, thereby preserving the surprise of seeing the soccer complex.
“When I made up the excuse to get Dad down there for lunch and showed him some stuff and then drove him out by soccer… that was an ‘a-ha moment’ type of thing,” recollects Folk. “Got him on the field and explained that it was named after him and Mom and that was emotional for him.”
On Sept. 23, a dedication ceremony for the facility took place just before a game.
“Probably the coolest part for me was just the dedication prior to the game,” says Folk. “My dad’s whole family came in and a bunch of my college buddies came in.”
Ultimately, of his mother and father’s life together, Folk sums it up as “a life well-lived while trying to deal with something that’s that big of an issue in your life,” referring to his mother’s condition.
And as sweet as it was seeing the Folk family name on a building, another sight may have been even sweeter, Folk notes.
“It was nice to be able to at least see Dad’s face,” Folk says, “when I told him thank you for all that.”