Leadership Gift Promotes Wellness

April 23, 2019

"I can’t imagine Ryan being on another campus and receiving that level of care."

The life of a college student can be both challenging and rewarding. Connecting with faculty, meeting academic expectations, navigating social life, and immersion in athletics, arts and outside activities gives students the skills, values, habits, experiences and networks to succeed personally and professionally. But this confluence of life demands also can cause stress and anxiety.

Health and wellness can impact a student’s ability to manage stress and anxiety. College can be a good time to put thoughtful practices into place and build capacity for a lifetime of well-being. Bobbi and Stephen Polk ’78 recognize this and have stepped forward with a leadership gift to the Whisler Center for Student Wellness. The gift will be used to deepen students’ well-being through facilities and programming, supporting Denison’s vision of integrated and holistic health and wellness.

Stephen Polk, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees, says that Denison can fulfill its potential in this area “because of support from alumni and families. Hopefully our gift will inspire others to give and build out this great vision.”

The Polks have first-hand experience with the power of health and wellness in creating positive student outcomes. Their son, Ryan, took advantage of resources at Whisler while he was at Denison. “The very dedicated counselors were so helpful to me during my college career,” says Ryan, who graduated with a degree in economics in 2017 and now works for a Columbus, Ohio-based software company.

For Ryan’s mother, Bobbi, giving is personal. “I can’t imagine Ryan being on another campus and receiving that level of care.”

Denison’s wellness initiatives center around four pillars: broadening mental health care capacities, meeting the needs of a diverse student population, promoting holistic health, and coordinating health and counseling care.

It’s an important and timely issue. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in four college students has a diagnosable mental illness like anxiety or depression. Half of college students report having felt overwhelming anxiety — making academic performance a challenge.

Denison President Adam Weinberg says, “This is a college where people care about each other. We are a kind, compassionate, and empathetic community. We also are a community that is strong and resilient and always seeking to improve. We are committed to Denison becoming a leader around health, especially mental and emotional health.”

The generosity of the Polks, and the donations their gift will inspire others to make, will help Denison live up to that commitment.

Your support for Denison’s Unlocking Potential Campaign can help fund health and wellness initiatives on campus—initiatives that will broaden mental health care capacities, meet the needs of a diverse student population, promote holistic health, and coordinate health and counseling care.