Former Razorback baseball coach Norm DeBriyn spearheads fundraising campaign for Fayetteville church expansion

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Norm DeBriyn had a great run in Fayetteville coaching baseball for the Arkansas Razorbacks. And even after 20 years since his retirement, his name still resonates in northwest Arkansas.

In 33 seasons (1970-2002), DeBriyn compiled a record 1,161-650-6 with four College World Series appearances.

He was also the visionary behind the development of Baum-Walker Stadium, which opened on South Razorback Road in 1996.

DeBriyn’s accomplishments as a coach have led to induction into several Halls of Fame, including the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and Hall of Fame. the fame of the Southwest Conference.

Upon his retirement from coaching, DeBriyn went to work for the non-profit Razorback Foundation Inc., the private fundraising arm that raises millions of dollars to support the UA athletics department. He was instrumental in raising funds for several Baum-Walker expansions, and the facility is considered one of the best college baseball stadiums in the country.

DeBriyn, 79, is now hoping for similar fundraising success for something he’s just as passionate about – St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish, a nonprofit at the University of ‘Arkansas.

DeBriyn has served as a full-time Catholic deacon at St. Thomas for the past decade. He is also president of the campaign for the capital of the church committee working to raise $12.5 million to pay for improvements to the church at 603 N. Leverett Ave. Improvements include the demolition of the student center and the construction of a new facility.

Two years ago, the statewide Diocese of Little Rock approved plans for the church to explore a building and fundraising project with a feasibility study. St. Thomas hired Fayetteville native Sarah Brady Du Preez as director of stewardship and development the same year.

DeBriyn explained that the parish was built in 1959 and has not seen any renovations or restorations since then. With the growing population of the AU, space is limited. In addition to cramped quarters, St. Thomas has many of the same features and infrastructure since its original construction, and much of the building is outdated. DeBriyn said water leaks, electrical problems, malfunctioning air and heating equipment and other infrastructure issues are common.

The fundraising campaign garnered early support, with more than $7 million raised or pledged. DeBriyn said St. Thomas also received a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation in Tulsa. The grant is contingent on the church raising an additional $3.3 million by April 2023.

“It was tried three times [in the past] to raise money for the renovations,” DeBriyn said. “Now it’s gotten to the point where it needs to be torn down. I hope we can achieve this. We have big demands there. It really is a need. »

DeBriyn said the church is working with WER Architects/Planners of Fayetteville on the design of the building.

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