Service opportunities, internships, community outreach, volunteerism and economic development are just a few ways that Ursinus plays a vital role as a member of a larger community. In 2019-20, the college continued to open its doors to families in Collegeville and throughout Montgomery County, solidifying itself as a destination campus in the region.
One of the Ursinus leaders charged with invigorating community spirit is Heather Lobban-Viravong, vice president for college and community engagement.
“As a member of a larger community, Ursinus has a responsibility to support and help in whatever ways it can, but we should never imagine that the relationship is one-sided,” she says.
We gain just as much as we give. Not only do we gain in knowledge, but we also gain thought partners and an extra layer of support should we face a challenging situation.”
The relationship between a college and its surrounding region, she says, is important because they each have resources from which an entire community can benefit—not only now but in the future.
“Over the past two years, Ursinus has grown to become more of a positive force in the community because we’ve put renewed energy and commitment into re-establishing meaningful partnerships with borough leaders, the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation, the Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, health and safety professionals and the surrounding school districts,” says Lobban-Viravong, who sits on the college’s community relations committee and also oversees the student affairs division, as well as inclusion initiatives like the Institute for Inclusion and Equity and the Diversity Action Resource Team.
She says that in the coming years, the relationship between Ursinus and the community will continue to thrive. “There is a core group of folks on campus who are dedicated to making community connections and finding more avenues for collaboration whenever possible to do so.”
Pat Curry ’01
If a college’s alumni base is the foundation for philanthropy and mentorship, then Ursinus is standing on solid ground. For proof, look no further than Pat Curry ’01, perhaps the proudest of all Bears; an alumnus who puts current students first.
I am who I am today because of my UC experience,” says Curry, a volunteer wrestling coach who is vice president of a family-owned flooring business.
“Ursinus has been like an extended family over the past 20-plus years. As far as my time as a wrestler at Ursinus, the sport and this college have taught me how to grow as a person, how to become stronger mentally and physically, and how to help others be successful both on and off the mat.”
He says the people at the college and in the wrestling community have a “shirt off their back” mentality, one that he’s adopted as he’s hired students at his business (it’s important, he says, “for them to learn about hard work and labor”) and remained active in the alumni community.
“I feel with the passing of Coach (Bill Racich), I have a responsibility to keep the legacy of the Ursinus wrestling program while helping the program move forward,” he says.
Racich, whom Curry had known since age 4, passed away in 2018. Last fall, the William Racich Room for Wrestling Excellence in Helfferich Gym was named in his honor.
“Coach Racich was my mentor, my coach, my big brother and my best friend. We traveled all over the world … In 2013, we were the coaches of the U.S. international team that had the opportunity to travel to Bulgaria and compete against some of the best in the world.”
Curry doesn’t consider himself a mentor, but he cherishes the opportunity to inspire. “I am just looking to help the student-athletes be the best they can be both on and off the mat, in society [and] to each other. I want them to be successful at everything they do not just as a wrestler, but in life,” he says.
“The look of pride in their eyes is everything you could ask for as a coach, mentor and friend.”