Celebrating a Legacy of Health and Wellness at TMCC

President Hilgersom, Ayarbe family members and TMCC staff cut the ribbon
Rebecca A. Eckland

Fifty years ago, athletics was a part of the institution that would grow into TMCC thanks to Joe Ayarbe, who served as a college counselor as well as the head coach of several sports. He was remembered and honored in a ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Sports and Fitness Center on Friday, Aug. 27. 

The ceremony welcomed members of the Ayarbe family, former TMCC President Dr. Maria Sheehan, donors, members of CORE Construction, TMCC leadership, as well as TMCC student-athletes, faculty and staff to a socially distanced celebration of this legacy that has come back to life thanks to TMCC Student Government Association who began the initiative to bring athletics back to TMCC in 2016. This initiative was taken up by TMCC leadership when a groundbreaking ceremony celebrated the construction of the Sports and Fitness Center and a Soccer field in 2018. The ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted last Friday honored that journey. 

“We are so grateful for the commitment of so many people for so many years to make the Sports and Fitness Center and Joe’s Gym,” said Karen Ayarbe who spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “No one had a better way of words than my dad and he summed up things I think pretty perfectly fifty years ago. With respect to the athletics program that he was trying to build at the time. He said: 'there would be no athletics without students.'”

TMCC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and the opening of the Sports and Fitness Center serendipitously aligned this year. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this is also the year that the college continues its focus on healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy environments through a ceremony that paid homage to that long history.

A Long History of Athletics 

Although the Sports and Fitness Center is the newest building on campus, what it represents runs deep into TMCC’s long legacy of dedication to student success that the college is celebrating during the yearlong observance of its 50th Anniversary. 

Fifty years ago, the college hired Ayarbe as the coach who would oversee TMCC’s original athletics program. Under his direction, the college fielded teams of athletes in men’s and women’s basketball, boxing, golf as well as track and field.   

For Ayarbe, the lessons taught by sport and competition were those that could be translated to the classroom, to one’s career, and one’s path through life: through wins and losses, perseverance and hard work nearly always pay off. And in the end, the race is almost always with yourself. Although Ayarbe retired in 1984, his legacy of health and wellness continues today and will continue to grow thanks to the new facility and athletics program. 

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the 8,000 square foot gymnasium was officially dedicated and named “Joe’s Gym.” This dedication was made possible by the generosity of Ayarbe’s family and friends who joined together to raise $100,000 for the new facility. Their tremendous support is a testament to how much Ayarbe’s legacy continues to inspire others.

“Dad would be so pleased, but not for himself...for the students at the TMCC Community,” Karen Ayarbe said.

Strength and Conditioning: Another TMCC Legacy

The Sports and Fitness Center also features a 3,000-foot strength and conditioning room outfitted with treadmills, elliptical machines, spin bikes, free weights and other resistance training equipment. The space was dedicated to Dr. Maria Sheehan who acted as TMCC President for eight years. 

In addition to expanding opportunities for students, her commitment to health and wellness has infused TMCC with a long-standing dedication to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of students. Since retiring, Sheehan has committed herself to health and wellness and encouraged those in attendance of the ceremony to use the new facility to pursue their health.  

TMCC students, faculty, and staff are certainly doing that: since the start of the Fall Semester, the Sports and Fitness Center has enrolled 40-50 new members each day, a clear demonstration that at TMCC, health and wellness is a living legacy. 

For more information about the Sports and Fitness Center, contact the department at 775-674-7974.