By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Call it the Clyde Field.
Or, depending on the day, the Millie.
“The sign spins, so when the football team plays, it’s the Clyde Field, and when the girls lacrosse team plays, it’s the Millie Field,” said David Lubell, Hartwick College media relations manager.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Wright Field and its new turf was dedicated in honor of Hartwick benefactors Clyde and Millie Wright at the halftime of the True Blue homecoming weekend football game.
“Clyde and Millie donated their time to and invested in the community,” said Hartwick College President Dr. Margaret L. Drugovich during her remarks. “As we dedicate this field, we acknowledge that they will be remembered, woven in the fabric of our strength.”
Clyde Wright, a Milford native and a graduate of Oneonta High School, was a prominent businessman, the owner of Wright’s Grocery and later, Wright’s Electric Co.
“He got to know everybody,” said his son, Brian R. Wright, partner in Hinman, Howard & Katell, the prominent Binghamton law firm. “And he believed that citizens should be involved in supporting the college. So he organized the Citizens Board at Hartwick College.”
Clyde’s wife, Millie, also got involved with fundraising, and the two of them were frequent guests at science lectures and cultural gatherings on Oyaron Hill. “She was very supportive of a college education,” said Wright. “She thought it was wonderful to see all the students downtown, enjoying Oneonta.”
Clyde also served on the board of trustees, and was recognized by the college’s Citizens Board as a Distinguished Citizen in 1958.
“His citation read, ‘Though his name is known far beyond the confines of this community, it is here that the foundation for his abundant life has been laid, and it is here that has the first place in his mind and heart,” said Drugovich.
Son Brian followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as a trustee for 26 years. “There hadn’t been football at Hartwick College since 1958,” he said. “During my tenure, the school decided it would be good to reinstitute football. It’s good for bringing student athletes and it helps the male and female balance at the school.”
The field was then known as the all-weather field, with what Wright described as a “carpet” of turf. “It was getting a lot of use,” he said. “There was football, and women’s field hockey and lacrosse were becoming popular. It just wore out.”
Wright spearheaded a fundraising effort to raised to re-turf and rededicate the field. In all, $3 million was raised and spread out over Wright and Elmore Field, as well as additional outdoor athletic enhancements.
“There we so many donors and trustees who saw the value of athletics,” he said. “And with all the student athletes coming in, they didn’t need a new dorm or educational building, they needed fields to play on that were comparable to other schools.”
In 2006, the field was dedicated in the Wright Family’s honor under the late Dick Miller’s tenure as college president. He gave Brian Wright a Hartwick College baseball cap, which he wore again on Saturday.
“On that day in 2006, the Hartwick community gathered to name this stadium after the Wright family,” said Drugovich. “On that day, the memory of your father and mother came alive through words of tribute.”
And in 2008, Brian and Josie were named Hartwick College Citizens of the Year – 50 years after his father was so named – and the son has received both an honorary degree and the President’s Medal for Extraordinary and Exemplary Loyalty.
Immediately following the 2019 graduation ceremonies, the old turf – dubbed “Clyde’s Carpet” following the original dedication – was removed, and an entirely new field put in. The turf itself has deeper fibers, and the infill layers underneath are made of sand and rubber pellets to provide more cushion for players.
In all, $450,000 was raised for the new turf field, with Wright providing the lead gift and matching dollar-for-dollar every gift.