Ken, G'73, DPE'75, and Sonja, G'76, Wall Find Life-Long Connections at Springfield College | Springfield College

Ken, G'73, DPE'75, and Sonja, G'76, Wall Find Life-Long Connections at Springfield College


Springfield College has been home to Ken G'73, DPE'75 and Sonja G'76 Wall for more than five decades.


By: Damon Markiewicz

Springfield College has been home to Ken, G'73, DPE'75, and Sonja, G'76, Wall for more than five decades. In that time, the couple has made life-long friendships with individuals who have become members of their extended family. As a result, they have remained committed to giving back to their adopted home, and they recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Dr. Kenneth A. Wall International Travel Award.

During the spring of 2019, Ken and Sonja unveiled their mission of making sure financial assistance would be available to students to support their international endeavors. The Dr. Kenneth A. Wall International Travel Award was officially announced during the Walk with Wall event on campus, a moment that paid homage to Ken’s dedication to international education, and celebrated his soon-to-be retirement.

It was an event that witnessed the campus community coming together to support Ken, as he walked 200 laps around the indoor track, with individuals making donations to the fund by sponsoring any number of the 200 laps on that day. As a follow-up to the five-year anniversary, Ken and Sonja recently increased their own financial support to the fund, with the goal of allowing even more Springfield College students the opportunity to experience international education.

“It was only fitting that Ken chose the day-long Walk with Wall activity for his retirement celebration,” explained Sonja. “Professor Ariel Rodriguez’s Event Management class planned the entire event. President Mary-Beth Cooper, students, colleagues, staff, friends, and family, all supported Ken in walking as many laps as they desired.  Their participation demonstrated the importance of friendship, and how important it is to give back and support others.”

But, to truly understand the origins of the Wall’s constant commitment to supporting the College, one must go back to their graduate school days.

“We were fortunate during our years of graduate school at SC to be influenced and challenged by professors and coaches who are now Springfield College legends including: Dr. Barbara Jensen ’57, Dr. Ed Bilik ’57, G’62, and Dr. Jesse Parks, just to name a few,” explained Ken. “We collaborated and established friendships with classmates who are now leaders around the world. And we walked with them. During those formative days, the international dimension of SC inspired our future goals.”

Upon completion of their graduate degrees, Ken and Sonja accepted an invitation to teach and coach internationally in Venezuela, where they would spend the next eight years enhancing their international relations by teaching the importance of physical education at the Pedagogical University of Caracas.

“The experience of living and teaching in Venezuela was rewarding,” explained Ken. “Our strong international connections helped make the world a better place, one friendship at a time.”

In the fall of 1983, Ken and Sonja returned home to Springfield College when Ken was named the director of the Springfield College International Center. In that role, he welcomed international students to the campus and encouraged SC students to study abroad. Both Ken and Sonja continued to build connections with students and colleagues often while walking hundreds of miles together on the Appalachian Trail. In addition, Ken also had the opportunity to build relationships in Bolivia for three months, as part of being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1986.

Following his successful tenure with the International Center, Ken was presented with a new opportunity to impact students on campus in the spring of 2004. After 21 years in the International Center, Ken would transition to a faculty position within the Department of Sport Management and Recreation, with an international component still very much a focus. As a faculty member for 15 years, Ken supported international students and visiting scholars in his classes, and he encouraged and supervised students who chose internship sites outside the United States. During those site visits, it was a given that Ken would find time to walk and build relationships with his students.

“During my time as a faculty member, I did over 100 internship site visits, in 30 states, and four nations,” explained Ken. “The site visits were so important, not only to build connections with the students, but I also become a better teacher because I was seeing first-hand the impact these students and their supervisors were having out in their field. In addition, my faculty colleagues, Kevin McAllister, Bob Accorsi, John Borland, and Matt Pantera, were more than just colleagues. They, too, became family. Our collaboration demonstrated to our students that when you have strong connections with people, it opens doors for many opportunities.”

In 2016, while on sabbatical from the College, Ken once again showcased the importance of staying connected with people, as he used his time to visit with more than 50 alumni in five different nations. Ken summarized this experience perfectly by explaining, “Caminar es vivir, pero, caminar con amigos es major," which means, "walking is living, but walking with friends is better.”

After 40-plus years of experiencing Springfield College on multiple levels, both Ken and Sonja encourage everyone to remain connected, maintain friendships, walk with friends, and pay it forward.

“We are grateful for having learned about the Humanics philosophy of Springfield College. Our commitment to the College is a way of putting our appreciation into practice and of serving others.”