Lucy Smith stands in front of the new wachholz college center gym
Jun 16, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

FVCC Receives Donation for Fitness Center in Wachholz College Center

Flathead Valley Community College received a $500,000 donation from community advocate Lucy Smith to name and support the Furlong Smith Fitness Center in the Wachholz College Center on campus in Kalispell.

As an active member of the local community and longtime supporter of FVCC, Smith has watched the college grow and develop over the last several decades.

“I’ve been so proud of the college and its leadership for dreaming boldly and then following their dreams for the benefit of the college and our whole community,” Smith said.

The Wachholz College Center was one of those dreams Smith felt passionately about showing her support however she could.

A local to the Flathead Valley since 1989, Smith sang in the Glacier Symphony for years and served on its board for 15 years. FVCC had invited the symphony to make the future College Center its performance home as the initial fundraising campaign was underway, and Smith moved right into action.

“I volunteered on FVCC’s fundraising campaign on behalf of the college and the symphony, as the two things were both close to my heart. I really appreciated what the college was doing and was thrilled to see our community step up in support.”

Smith credits her parents for showing her the importance of education and connecting with local institutions. Her mother, Helen, was the first woman in her family to graduate from college. Her father, Ken, was a Navy flight surgeon and doctor of internal medicine, so the family moved around often but always found ways to give back.

Wherever they were, Smith’s mom volunteered in local schools and art museums and her dad provided medical care, often free of charge, to people who needed it.

“My parents really were community contributors,” Smith said. “They were both very quiet about what they did. My sisters and I learned the value of philanthropy and education from an early age. Those values were part of our landscape growing up and are the legacy we inherited.”

With her gift, Smith says she’s pleased to be able to see part of her and her family’s legacy in action with the new fitness center.

“Instead of waiting until after I’m gone for this donation, I’m glad there are ways to make a bigger gift during my lifetime than I thought I could. The FVCC Foundation graciously helped me work out a plan and now I get to see the good, exciting purposes this gift serves in real-time.”

The fitness center is set to officially open its doors in fall 2023 and provide a much-needed space for students, faculty and staff to focus on their physical and mental health. The space features a fitness area with equipment and machines, a yoga and multipurpose classroom, as well as locker rooms and showers.

“We are grateful to Lucy for her outstanding support of the new Wachholz College Center and FVCC. Her generous gift will change the lives of our students. We are proud to share the Furlong Smith Fitness Center with our college community,” said FVCC President Jane Karas.

Smith chose the Furlong Smith Fitness Center name as a chance to honor her parents and her immediate family for their consistent yet understated support of their local communities.

“As one of four daughters, this was an opportunity to honor the Furlong name for all my parents gave over their lives. And also, to honor the Smith family who always generously encouraged young people to pursue higher education, offered scholarship support, and helped people in the workforce take advantage of advancement opportunities,” adds Smith.

As for the fitness center connection, Smith says her childhood was full of family activities and exercising together. Today, as a self-proclaimed “gym-rat” and accomplished distance runner and cyclist, supporting the fitness center of the new building feels like home.

“I grew up in a doctor’s home where the first ‘prescriptions’ were water, good nutrition, fresh air and exercise. My mom exercised faithfully her entire life. Our family loved skiing or hiking together growing up, I ran distance for years, and now love distance cycling for charity. There are so many benefits to staying active,” Smith explains of her draw to support student fitness on campus.

“My parents were married for 73 years and passed away just months apart in 2021. I was blessed to have them as my beacons and guides, and it’s lovely that I can remember them this way. The Furlongs gave me foundations for life and the Smiths brought me to my life in beautiful Montana. I am grateful to both.”

For more information about the Wachholz College Center and ways to get involved, visit