Seeing a photo of her teenage self was the only part of the new Lynda & Murray Farmer Walk of Excellence that Nancy Mollenhauer didn’t immediately recognize.
“This stirs up a lot of emotions, it brings that feeling back from the 1980s,” said the former national team field hockey player.
Mollenhauer started her illustrious career just down the road at nearby Mount Douglas secondary school. Now she’s among hundreds of UVic Vikes to be captured in the new Walk of Excellence along the hallway between the main foyer and the gymnasium of the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities.
The walkway was unveiled in a private gala last week. It will greet visitors to the Vikes basketball games at CARSA, the first of which is Oct. 2 when the Vikes’ men host the Carleton Ravens in the Guy Vetrie Memorial Tournament.
“Back [in the ‘80s] you were a Viking or a Vikette,” recalled Mollenhauer, who was then Nancy Charlton. “It’s very powerful, there’s so much history. We had a strong connection between teams back then. We’d support the soccer guys and they’d support us. And we’d all go to the basketball. There was a real sense of belonging, of course, it wasn’t always about winning. You felt it if a team lost too.”
The walkway showcases Vikes athletics photographs, historic memorabilia and success stories of Vikes athletes, coaches, supporters and builders. It’s named in honour of former UVic Chancellor Murray Farmer and his wife, Lynda. The North Saanich couple made a $500,000 donation to support the project, which began a year and a half ago with story and photo collecting by the Vikes communication department.
“When we built CARSA we knew there would be opportunities to provide a physical space that could honour the rich athletic tradition but we also wanted to preserve the McKinnon Gym legacy,” said Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation.
All 17 of the Vikes basketball championship banners will remain in McKinnon, a decision that alumni supported, Hamilton said. Instead, replicas are being hung this week in CARSA.
Hamilton’s work has been crucial to the Vikes modern legacy, as the former president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport was a key driver to build CARSA and in instituting the annual Vikes Championship Breakfast which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars in student-athlete scholarships.
The walkway is more than just an interactive display with digital touch screens that document past championships and awards, it sets a new standard, Hamilton added.
“New students get a sense right away that they are part of something bigger and hopefully it will not only inspire them to reach their potential but also to do their part to uphold our tradition.”
Murray and Lynda Farmer are longtime supporters of UVic and said they donated because they witnessed the positive effect of the university’s athletic program.
“We were always inspired by how [UVic] athletes manage their time with school and sports,” Murray said. “It’s such a strict regime, and they often achieve academic excellence and have a strong community involvement. It shapes them as people.”