GREENVILLE, S.C. — Furman University graduate Chris Borch '78 and his wife, Andrea, have given more than $4 million over the past decade to support the university's track and cross-country program.
Now, the Borches have pledged another $1 million to the program, a portion of which will go toward the construction of a new track house at the Irwin Belk Complex for Track and Field.
Construction on the "Blue Shoes Track House," which will provide shelter for the runners during inclement weather and contain a meeting room, lockers and restroom facilities, is scheduled to begin this fall.
Part of the $1 million gift will also support the track and cross-country operating budget, the scholarship and coaching endowment, and Furman Elite, a post-collegiate training program for Olympic hopefuls.
"It is no secret that the remarkable success of Furman's running program has coincided with the financial generosity of Chris and Andrea," said Furman Athletics Director Mike Buddie. "And since much of their support has gone toward the university's endowment, the value of those gifts has appreciated significantly over the years. We are humbled by the level of trust the Borches have in our running program, and we are deeply grateful for their continued support."
Chris Borch, a former cross-country runner at Furman, is founder and CEO of Micro-Mechanics, a high-tech manufacturing company with five plants around the world. He and his wife established the "Blue Shoes" scholarship fund in 2005.
Borch said that on his first day of cross-country practice as a Furman student, coach Bill Keesling gave everyone on the team a pair of blue Onitsuka Tiger running shoes. "That small gift," he said, "signaled the beginning of four wonderful years. In the classroom, I learned how to learn and on the track I learned life lessons that have been invaluable to me in every aspect of my life. Through Blue Shoes, Andrea and I hope other young men and women will have the same opportunity to learn life lessons through the pursuit of athletic excellence."
Under the guidance of two-time Olympian and head coach Robert Gary, the Furman men's and women's cross-country programs have each claimed the last four Southern Conference titles, and the cross-country and track and field programs have earned a combined nine All-American citations over the past three years.
The Paladin men, who finished 13th at the 2015 NCAA Cross-Country Championships, are ranked 12th nationally in the latest USTFCCCA cross-country national rankings and are currently the top-ranked team in the Southeast Region. The Paladin women are ranked 32nd in the most recent USTFCCCA national poll.
"It has been a great pleasure working with Chris, whose commitment to the program really began in 2005," said Gary, who became Furman's head track and cross-country coach in 2012. "It takes a special kind of stakeholder to get behind an endeavor long before it's built, and Chris and Andrea have displayed both the vision and generosity to take the program to a higher level. The Blue Shoes Track House was a focus once scholarships, operations and coaching positions were addressed. This will be a highly functional facility and a tremendous source of pride for our student-athletes."
Julie Paré, Furman Sports Information