Area residents who attended the April 12 Baron Club dinner at the Franciscan University of Steubenville had the opportunity to be impressed on several different levels.
For many, it was the first time they had the opportunity to get an up-close look at the renovations to the Finnegan Fieldhouse, the home of the Barons basketball teams. The $5 million project increased the size of the fieldhouse by 17,000 square feet. One of the most impressive additions was the 5,100-square-foot fitness center, with state-of-the-art equipment a strength and flexibility training room and an aerobics room that's double the size of the previous one.
Among the other items included in those renovations were new locker rooms, new offices and space for the future Baron Hall of Fame.
The changes to the fieldhouse make it a much more dynamic facility and should serve the Barons athletic teams and students well as the school continues to build its NCAA Division III program.
While those who took advantage of the chance to tour the renovated building were impressed, they also heard from several speakers who talked about what went into their successes in athletics, but even more important, their dedication to their faith and their families.
That should have come as no surprise nearly everyone who is connected with the school or has spent any time on the campus always comes away impressed with the importance of faith in all aspects of university life, from the classroom to productions put on by the drama department to the athletic field.
This year's dinner was the 47th held by the Baron Club, or the Century Club as it was known until two years ago, and the local honorees all stand as examples of the values our area hold dear - hard work, dedication and commitment.
Patricia Herring, for example, has touched the lives of countless area residents through the Steuben Striders track club. In addition to teaching track and field to area young men and women, the program also works to teach responsibility and self-respect.
One of the driving forces behind the formation of the program in 1973 was, in fact, one of the greatest athletes of all time, Herring explained. She said that her first husband, the late Bob Young, was encouraged by the legendary Jesse Owens to start a track program in Steubenville, a program that is still strong more than 40 years later.
Mike Orlando took the lessons learned as a student and an athlete at Catholic Central and has built an impressive coaching resume. He played key roles on two state championship teams at Central in the 1993-94 school year - he was the quarterback on the football team in the fall (Division V), and third baseman on the baseball team in the spring (Division IV.) Since 2011, he's been the head coach of the Archbishop McNicholas High School football team in Cincinnati.
Among the many accomplishments East Liverpool's Frank "Digger" Dawson can point to is serving as president of the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame, an organization he helped found in 1998. A successful businessman, an author and the founding president of the East Liverpool High School Alumni Association, Dawson's love of our region is always on display.
The keynote speakers, Steelers' greats Robin Cole, Craig Wolfley and Jeff Hartings, as well as current Steeler Ike Taylor, also were proud to discuss the role their families and their faith played in their lives on and off the field.
All offered insights into their lives that showed that they fit very well with the mission statement of the Baron Club, which reads, in part, that the club " recognizes the influential role Franciscan's Christ-centered approach to athletics has on its student-athletes, the community and society at large."
(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)