Charleston Southern University has received one of the largest donations in the school's athletic history from one of its own. Roger Nielsen, a 1974 Baptist College at Charleston graduate and former Buccaneer catcher, committed $500,000 to the baseball program this week.
The playing surface at CSU Ballpark will be named Nielsen Field to honor the generosity of Roger and his wife, Joyce. The Nielsens' gift will be directed toward the Bucs' efforts in recruiting, training and player instruction.
Nielsen, who earned an Accounting degree from Baptist College and has since enjoyed an impressive career as a business owner, hopes the contribution will provide an all-encompassing experience for current and future players.
"I wanted to give to really enhance the program any way that we can," Nielsen said. "Whatever we can do to attract baseball players to Charleston Southern and make them better players and better people once they're here, I want to be part of that."
CSU President Dr. Jairy C. Hunter expressed his gratitude to the Nielsens for a gift that will further the baseball program's ability to compete regionally and nationally.
"We are delighted that Roger and Joyce have made this significant gift of $500,000 to enhance our Buccaneer Baseball program," Hunter said. "This major gift will encourage other CSU alumni to support our athletics program as we continue to integrate faith and pursue excellence in all endeavors."
Nielsen, a New Jersey native who now resides outside of Philadelphia, credits his time on campus for the life he's carved out since returning to the Northeast.
"Without the money to play baseball, I don't go to college," Nielsen reflected. "Baseball is a big deal in my house because without baseball, college doesn't happen for me, I might never have met my wife and my life would be completely different. People believed in me and gave me the opportunity to be part of something special and I'm just kind of passing it forward."
Nielsen, who formed a personal relationship with Christ as a senior, was inspired to get heavily involved with his alma mater by former Buc, Chris Singleton. Like many others, Nielsen watched with amazement as Singleton, then a rising sophomore outfielder, delivered his "Love is stronger than hate" message at CSU Ballpark just a day after his mother and eight others were tragically killed in a shooting at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church.
"The way Chris Singleton handled himself and presented himself to the public was amazing and, I think, went a long way to driving the way the community responded to such a tragedy," Nielsen said. "That kind of led us back into Charleston Southern Baseball and wanting to make a difference in the lives of these kids."
The University is still raising funds for the Singleton Baseball Complex, which opened this past February as the home for Buccaneer Baseball. Over $1.5 million has already been committed to the facility, which includes a state-of-the-art locker room, student-athlete enrichment center and entryway commemorating Sharonda Coleman-Singleton's life and legacy.
CSU Assistant Athletic Director for Development Tyler Davis came to know the Nielsens through the Singleton Complex project. Their heart for the University and its mission stood out to Davis then, and has continued to since. Davis welcomed Roger and many other former Bucs to campus for an Alumni Weekend last month.
"I'd like to thank Roger and Joyce Nielsen as well as the Nielsen family for this program-changing commitment," Davis said. "While getting to know Roger and his family, it has been great to see how Charleston Southern impacted his life spiritually, on the baseball field and from a business perspective. His passion for CSU is evident and it is with great pleasure that we name our field, Nielsen Field at CSU Ballpark."
Incoming Athletic Director Jeff Barber also extended his appreciation to the Nielsens.
"On behalf of CSU, the Athletic Department and specifically the Buccaneer Baseball program, I want to extend my sincere and heart felt appreciation to Roger and Joyce Nielsen for their outstanding donation to our baseball team," Barber said. "Their generosity will go a long way in building a championship caliber program and we are so blessed to have them in the Charleston Southern family."