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Cleves Delp

Cleves Delp: how a volunteer can transform a university

How much difference can one volunteer make? Cleves Delp, the Maumee, Ohio TDC Companies Chairman & CEO who served two terms on the board of Lourdes University, is a prime example of how a single volunteer can make a major difference in a short time.

"Cleves Delp is always thinking — and as Cleves often says, 'That's a beautiful thing,'" said Mary Arquette, Lourdes University's Vice President of Institutional Advancement. "Cleves sees opportunities where others don't think they exist."

"Cleves will see why different parties should be involved and draw them in. The partnerships he's put together are forged out of common missions, needs and goals – not forced. He brings together people you wouldn't ordinarily expect and engages them. As a result, extraordinary things happen."

Since volunteering his support for Lourdes University a decade ago, Cleves Delp's biggest contributions have included helping build Delp Hall (named in honor of his step mother Evelyn) as well as Mercy Baseball Field and starting a scholarship to help students with leadership potential.

Cleves Delp

Delp also helped Lourdes University make its greatest transformation: growing from 1,200 students in 2003 to 2,700 today and moving from primarily non-traditional, part-time students taking courses in evenings, to a student body that is today 65 percent traditional, full-time students, Arquette said.

"Cleves saw that moving to primarily traditional full-time students was the future we need to be moving toward," Arquette said. "And Cleves was willing to commit his time and resources to make it happen."

That change has been major: Lourdes began as a small junior college in 1958 specializing in educating the Sylvania Franciscan sisters. In 1969, laywomen were first admitted and laymen were admitted in 1975. By 1982, the school went from a two-year junior college to a four-year baccalaureate institution. However, Arquette said that when Cleves got involved, things really began moving forward.

Examples of Cleves Delp's impact:

Delp Hall is far more than an academic building: 60 percent of Lourdes University students are first generation college students and 25 percent of Lourdes University students are minorities, Arquette notes. Delp Hall serves as an academic support center where every Lourdes student can receive free tutoring to boost themselves to higher academic levels.

Mercy Field is more than Lourdes University's first baseball field: it has helped transform Lourdes into more of a traditional university where athletics and campus culture are becoming a growing part of the educational process.

Delp, in an interview, recalled how Mercy Field came together as a playing field now shared by Lourdes University as well as nearby Central Catholic High School. "I said if you can get the diocese to contribute the land to build this field, I'd consider building this field — and so it began," Delp recalled. "The Toledo diocese provided us with the land lease with the understanding that I would build the ball diamond and lease it back to Central Catholic and Lourdes University."

But once Lourdes, the Diocese and Central Catholic were working together, Delp recalled the dream for these Catholic institutions kept getting bigger. "If you have two baseball teams playing spring sports on the same diamond, there's two things you need," Delp said. "You need to be able to play every day and you need to be able to play day and night so that required artificial turf and lights and then, we needed a locker room and then we needed a press box and then we needed an indoor hitting facility. And on and on and on."

For Delp, lessons from education and athletics and business all impact each other. "You've got to find a way to come together because the truth is in business or in sports or in life, stuff happens and it's not always good stuff so the question is when that moment arrives." Delp said, "When difficulty approaches, when sudden change happens, a turnover happens in football. Or you throw the ball over the first baseman's head in baseball or you strike out. People aren't perfect," Delp said. "It's not about perfection. It's what you do after you goof. It's what you do when it hasn't gone well. It's not only what you do. It's what you do for that teammate who has just goofed."

"Such moments of challenge help give life more meaning", Delp said. "It's 'Do you hang your head, do you shake your head or are you the first guy who's there and helps them get better and say 'Hey, we're still in this together, we're gonna be fine,'" Delp said. "It's in moments of challenge, I think that's what sports teaches us that you can't get any other place." Arquette said of Delp: "It's an interesting and very positive dynamic that's happening here. Education is so important to Cleves Delp and you see his dreams come to fruition here. It is a beautiful thing."