NORFOLK, Va. – Stephanie Carr Field was the first to text me Tuesday night, but she was far from the last.
Stephanie is a friend and former Old Dominion cheerleader who lives north of Miami. Why, I wanted to know, I mean the football coach ODU Ricky Rahn What “Ricky Rahnhead coach of the Thurmond family of ODU” in a follow-up story to the Monarchs’ 20-17 victory over Virginia Tech?
Story about the impact of ODU’s victory over Va Tech
Good question, actually. I got a ton of emails and texts asking the same thing.
Here’s why: Like all major college football programs, ODU must raise millions of dollars from donors in order to be competitive. Recently, Dick Thurmond and his wife, Pat Jennings, made a $1.25 million donation to ODU football.
That money will provide Rahne and his staff with extras that will help them recruit and retain players. It can be used for capital projects or to supplement the salaries of coaches and support staff.
As a result, we will now refer to Rahne as “ODU Thurmond Family Head Coach” at odusports.com
Also, a patio area between the 49the The street garage and SB Ballard Stadium will be known as the Thurmond Family Plaza. A Daktronics video board will be placed there in October (pending order) that will broadcast college football during pregame and show TowneBank Scoreboard video during the game.
The University will use the video board for other events throughout the year.
Rahne said he is happy to be known as the head coach of the ODU Thurmond family.
“Dick Thurmond made a very generous donation that will help our program,” he said. “We are all very grateful that he has made this commitment to our program.”
He added that while this is the first time ODU has awarded a coach such a title, “it’s something that’s being done across the country. A lot of schools are doing it across multiple sports.”
Thurmond graduated from ODU with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1976 and credits the University for much of his success in life.
Taylor Heinicke, Dick Thurmond and Jenna Virga
He met his wife at ODU and by the time he graduated he was already working as a real estate agent. He teamed up with William E. Wood, one of the region’s dominant real estate companies, decades ago and eventually bought the company.
In 2013, he sold the company to Howard Hanna. He now serves as the Southeast Regional President for Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
Thurmond was living in Northern Virginia when she enrolled at ODU. He took a little longer than usual to graduate because he first tried to major in engineering and then in accounting.
“The math (in both races) made the marketing look pretty good to me,” he laughed.
Thurmond has been a prolific donor to ODU’s academic programs for many years. He recently made a $6 million donation to create the Thurmond School of Professional Sales and Negotiation at ODU’s Strome of Business College.
It is the first school of professional sales and negotiations in the world.
He was inspired by an event that occurred many years earlier, when he saw a woman at a local car dealership being taken advantage of by two salesmen. She guessed that she lacked negotiating skills. As part of the program, communication workshops will be held for women and minorities.
He got involved with athletics in 2009 when ODU started playing soccer.
“Some people like the NFL and other sports,” he said. “College football has always been my favorite. I was so happy when ODU started playing football.”
Thurmond developed a close relationship with then-football coach Bobby Wilder and made several large donations to the program. When Wilder was replaced by Rahne in 2019, the two hit it off immediately.
They were introduced by Jenna Virgaexecutive director of the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation.
“Jena told me, ‘You’re going to like this guy,’ and she was right,” he said. “I am very impressed with him.”
Virga said Thurmond “has been wonderful to ODU athletics. He and his wife have supported golf and women’s basketball.”
The couple’s son, Taylor, is studying for a computer science degree at ODU.
Thurmond said he is grateful for the well-rounded education he received at ODU.
“I was shy,” he said. “And you can’t be shy in the real estate business.
“I joined a fraternity (Lambda Chi Alpha) and opened up. I credit the fraternity and my professors for helping me grow and mature.
“I wouldn’t have met my wife if I hadn’t gone to ODU. In many ways, ODU changed my life.”
And in return, it is changing the lives of ODU students and athletes.