Eastern Oregon University > Mountaineer Magazine > highlight1 > A Legacy: Past, Present, and Future

A Legacy: Past, Present, and Future

Sunshine radiates through the massive windows into the new Health & Human Performance (HHP) offices overlooking the Track & Field Complex.  In the past, sharing only one lab between classes, research, and testing, coupled with program faculty spread between offices across campus, the thought of a state-of-the-art lab and teaching facility wasn’t even a concept.  

A Health and Human Performance student in class

But, a generous bequest changed everything.  “We have faculty in three different buildings across campus,” said Kyle Pfaffenbach, Associate Professor and Department of the Health & Human Performance Department, “now, we are doubling our labs for classes and research – plus the office synergy, collaboration, and camaraderie to be all together – this is such an opportunity.  Not just for our on-campus students, but the data and research our online students will now have access to is incredible.”

Dr. Jean Neely coached and taught physical education at Eastern Oregon College in La Grande for 30 years before retiring and moving to live with her twin sister, Janice.  Upon Jean’s passing in 2009, Janice directed a portion of both their estates be gifted to the EOU Foundation to support scholarships and programs in health and exercise. “The Neely sisters had such a passion for and serving their communities.  That’s what the Neely sisters were known for,” Pfaffenbach noted.  “The idea was to always be giving back and inspiring – when we read about them, they did so much.  Even posthumously, they’re still doing that.  They are helping our students learn and helping us carry on their legacy.”

Pfaffenbach described the research he and his department conducted on the Neely family, upon learning of this gift.  “We didn’t know them personally, but as we learned about the positive impact they had across their lifespan – and continue to make in our community with this gift, we felt such a tremendous sense of gratitude and this incredible connection to them.”

Professor Darren Dutto works with students in the Health and Human Performance Lab

Resources from the Neely estate will be used to establish a significant student scholarship endowment, and to equip the EOU Health and Human Performance labs in the new Fieldhouse.  “We have added world-class motion capture technology and spaces for physiology testing.  The new space and equipment will provide students with valuable experiential learning.  It will also allow for continued collaborations with community partners, and the opportunity to expand the programs we can offer.  We are always trying to make positive impacts on the community and this gift provides the infrastructure for us to be able to offer this,” Pfaffenbach stated.  “It’s a game changer in so many ways; there’s no way to narrow down the impact.”

“My focus with Health and Human Performance gives me a space where I feel continuously stimulated and fascinated,” said Kendall Bonzani, a senior in the Health & Human Performance (HHP) program, with a concentration in Exercise Science and a goal of becoming a physical therapist.  “When I heard one of my classes would require two terms of dissection, I was extremely intimidated.  Each week, I was building confidence – with another layer of musculoskeletal identification, came another layer of confidence.  It’s this experience, real-world in a classroom, that will help me excel after EOU.  Similar to the challenges in the lab, I’ll be presented with challenges every day after graduation.  These might all feel daunting at the time; however, I have found the confidence to face these challenges head–on because of what I have learned and experienced at EOU.”

The tenacity Bonzani embodies and continues growing from her time at Eastern is reflective of the same passion and enthusiasm twin sisters, Jan and Jean Neely, who bequeathed not only a gift, but a lifelong legacy to EOU, health, wellness, and a culture of giving.  “The Neely Sisters are an inspiration,” said Pfaffenbach, “their story is so cool!  And, for two sisters to be that dedicated and trust EOU and the Foundation with this.  We have a responsibility to use this gift in a way to benefit people through the medium of health, wellness, and education.  We get to embody and live that every day as we steward this gift.”