The Furman University Rugby Club announced today it has formed a rugby alumni foundation that will work to provide long-term financial stability for the program, mentor and provide career advice to players, and champion Furman’s rugby experience to the University and prospective students.
Trent Emeneker ’02, a former Marine Corps Aviator and graduate of Columbia Business School, will serve as the inaugural president of the Furman University Rugby Foundation. Chris Helps ’ 01, the original eight man, will serve as vice president.
Other members of the eight-member board of directors include Rod Bayless ’99, Nick Kline ’07, Drew Callaghan ’12, Monty Turner’ 11, Dr. Blair Barton ’08 and Tom Mullinax. Furman Head Rugby Coach John Roberts and Team Captain Patrick Musau ’17 will serve as non-voting members of the board. The group will meet annually and will serve terms of 2 and 3 years.
In accordance with an agreement with Furman University, gifts to the organization will be designated to a University rugby fund. Disbursements from that fund will benefit the Furman Rugby Team.
The Furman Rugby Club was established in 1998 and is one of the top small college programs in the nation. Furman holds a 165-60-1 record, has won three national small college championships (former Division 3) and finished runner up twice. The Paladins are a perennial power in the 12-team Southern Rugby Conference which competes in USA Rugby’s Division II. John Roberts, Furman’s Communications Director, helped found the team and has served as head coach for 19 years.
“The best memories I have of Furman University revolve around time spent on the field competing and time off the field building friendships with teammates. John Roberts has, to date, worked to build one of the top programs in the nation,” said Emeneker. “Our goal is to strengthen the work he has done and further build the tradition of excellence demonstrated every year by players and alumni on and off the field.”
Apart from its on-field prowess, the Furman program has a national reputation for supporting and cultivating rugby. Known for its excellent rugby facilities, Furman rugby hosted the USA Rugby Men’s Collegiate D2 National Championship Final Four 2013-15. In 2014 and 2015, USA Rugby Women’s Collegiate Division I and Division 2 national champions were crowned at John S. Roberts Field. Since 2009, Furman has hosted a low-cost residential summer rugby camp for high school players and has a tradition of allowing youth rugby programs to use its facility at no cost.
The Furman University Rugby Foundation, previously known as FROG (Furman Rugby Olde Guys), was originally formed in 2005 after the first alumni game and has remained a passionate but loosely organized alumni group. In 2008, Furman rugby alumni and parents raised more than $200,000 to help fund the construction of Furman’s rugby stadium. The field was officially named in honor of Coach John Roberts on the 10th anniversary of the inception of the rugby program.
The Furman University Rugby Foundation’s board of directors will galvanize and provide structure for rugby alumni, parents and friends. The group plans to publish a regular newsletter, organize fundraising, engage the entire organization in community service, and develop a strategic plan for the program.
“Rugby is a tight knit community built on the trials and tribulations endured on the field, and Furman Rugby is simply no different. Furman Rugby is indeed different in the success that we have seen in our short 19 year history and the support that our alumni and parents have shown throughout the years when called upon,” said Helps. “The foundation of this board will be to build on the excitement and success of the Furman program as it stands today. It will provide a first class rugby network for current players and alumni and add to a lasting legacy for the Furman program. These efforts will pay in some small part the debt that we alumni owe to the program and Coach Roberts for the great memories and lasting rugby experiences. This newly energized Furman Rugby community will lead to the long term success of the program and community of which we are all proud to be called members.”
The Board is planning to have its inaugural meeting at the University later this fall.
Nick Kline ’07
Nick Kline serves as the Program Manager for the Fathers First program at Total Action for Progress in Roanoke, Virginia. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy from Furman University and a Masters in Social Work focusing on Non-Profit Management from the University of Georgia. He is married to Brittany DeKnight ’07 and lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of Southwest Virginia. Nick played the lock position for the Furman Rugby Club for four years. He also served as both Captain and Co-Captain of the club, was the recipient of the prestigious Paladin Award twice during his tenure, and played on the 2004 and 2005 Small College National Championship winning teams. Nick has also spent time playing for the Greenville Griffins Rugby Football Club.
Drew Callaghan ‘12
Drew Callaghan works for Acosta Sales and Marketing in the Charlotte office after 4 years of increasing responsibility with the company. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Furman in 2012 and is pursuing his M.B.A at the McColl School of Business at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. Drew was accepted into the highly competitive Leadership Development Program at Acosta and has worked in various offices within the company. He manages a $100MM portfolio with clients across all spectrums of the consumer packaged goods industry. He was selected as a 2015 Chairman’s Award winner for best-in-class results from a pool of 40,000 employees. He played rugby for 3 years at Furman in the forward pack and has remained active with Furman through the Young Benefactors annual giving program. He speaks bi-annually to the Business Block at Furman as a young alumni and is heavily involved with helping recruit other young graduates to join the Young Benefactor program.
Trent Emeneker ’00
Trent Emeneker works for GE Aviation in Cincinnati Ohio, where he leads a digital product transformation team. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Furman, a M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School. Before working for GE, Trent was on active duty in the Marine Corps where he served as an F/A-18 Aviator with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Japan. He is married to Emily and has a nine month old son, Grey. He served as the team Captain his senior year.
Monty Turner ‘11
After graduating from the American International School of Johannesburg, Monty Turner came to the United States to pursue a B.A. degree at Furman University. He was an integral part of the Furman Rugby team, serving his 4 years as a starter between fullback and flyhalf. He was fortunate enough to be part of the team that went to the National Championship Finals in 2008. Monty resides in the Village of West Greenville with his wife, Carrie. He serves as a senior site selection consultant at Global Location Strategies, helping Fortune 500 companies locate their facilities around the world. In addition, Monty is the co-founder of Site Unseen Media, a drone photography and video production business.
Blair Barton ’08
Blair Barton is completing his Medical residency in Otolaryngology in New Orleans. A native of Buckinghamshire, England, Blair moved to Greenville in 2004 to attend Furman University. A 4-year starter, he helped the team to a National Championship in 2004 and to two finals in 2007 and 2008. His other notable rugby achievements include selection to the Palmetto All Stars, captaining the team in 2008 and winning MVP in his final year at Furman University. After completing his B.S. in Health and Exercise Science he moved to Columbia, SC to obtain his medical Degree at the University of South Carolina. During his medical education he was a regular starter for the Columbia Olde Grey men’s team. Highlights include DII South East rugby division championships and advancement to the round of 32 for the Meds DII playoffs. Blair is working toward a fellowship in Head and Neck reconstruction and hopes one day to return to South Carolina.
Rod Bayless ‘ 00
Rod Bayless received a B.A. in Business Administration from Furman. Rod currently lives in Atlanta with his wife Kristin ’03 and two daughters. Kristin and Rod are expecting another child in November. After graduating Rod returned to Georgia to work for Fastpak Systems, which sells packaging to the manufacturing and distribution industries. Rod continues to find time to take in rugby games in the Atlanta area, and has competed with the Furman alumni team in the past.
Chris Helps ‘01
Chris Helps lives in Virginia Beach, VA with his wife, Stacey ‘01, and his three sons (William, Zane, and Griffinn). After graduating Furman with a B.S. in biology he moved to south Florida where he began a career in Medical Devices sales. Chris has worked with Nuvasive for over a decade and is currently a sales manager in the southeastern Virginia and eastern North Carolina markets. Chris played eight man for the founding team and also served as captain of the squad. Chris and Stacey have been ardent supporters of the Furman program since leaving the university.
Tom Mullinax, AIA, is president of Hospice Design Resource, a nationally recognized architectural firm headquartered in Hilton Head Island. He and Anne are parents of two former Furman rugby players; Cole ’05 and Zach ’08 who share a total of four national championship rings. Both live in Charlotte, have married and have a total of three children of their own. Tom was an initial financial contributor to the rugby stadium building fund in honor of Coach Roberts, and continues to follow and support Furman Rugby as the program continues to build.
John Roberts (non voting)
Coach John Roberts founded the Furman Rugby program in 1998, and has guided the team to three national Division III titles and six South Championships. His career coaching record is 165-60-1. John founded the Southern Rugby Conference and served as commissioner for three years. He is highly regarded in rugby circles and has attracted four USA Rugby National rugby events to Greenville. John earned a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina (1990) and a Master’s in Higher Education Administration from Columbia College (2015). A 20-year Furman employee, John currently serves as Communications Director in Furman’s Office of Communications. In 2009, the Furman University’s Board of Trustees voted to name the rugby pitch in his honor. John is married to Brandis Timmons Roberts ’91. They have five children, Zach, 21, Maggie, 19, Alley, 19, Julianna, 17 and Max, 15. Zach ’17 and Maggie ’20 are both Furman students.
Patrick Musau ’17 (non voting)
Patrick Musau’17 is serving his second year as Captain of the Furman team. A native of Kenya, Patrick has played eight man and center for the Paladins. He is a two-time all Southern Rugby Conference Player, has tremendous respect from his teammates and has won several team awards. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics Honor Society), Patrick has a 3.9 Grade Point Average. He is double majoring in Physics and Computing/Applied Math and plans to pursue a graduate degree in engineering after graduating from Furman.