McKendree University Director of Athletics Chuck Brueggemann announced Wednesday that fencing will be the newest intercollegiate program to be offered by the school.
Brueggemann anticipates that the Bearcats' fencing program will compete for the first time in the 2014-15 academic year.
Fencing will become the 25th sport within the McKendree athletics program. It will operate as a co-ed program with both men's and women's teams.
"We are excited to bring the sport of fencing to the McKendree community," said Brueggemann. "Our fans will marvel at the skill and precision it takes to compete at a high level in this sport, and it will certainly bring yet another level of excitement for Bearcat fans everywhere.
"We cannot wait for our inaugural season to begin as this program will add a new chapter in the rich history of McKendree athletics."
The sport of fencing has seen steady growth among colleges and universities across the country. According to figures compiled by USA Fencing, there are approximately 40 schools that offer fencing at the intercollegiate level, while there are another 93 institutions that sponsor the sport at the club level.
Brueggemann also announced Wednesday that McKendree has hired Robert Pearce Wilson as the first coach for the Bearcats' fencing program. Wilson will bring experience as both a coach and participant in the sport of fencing. He fenced for two years as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri.
Wilson, who has been involved as a coach and referee for the United States Fencing Association since 2008, has also developed the Millstadt Venture Crew, an organization that helps develop young fencers ranging in age from the completion of eighth grade through 21 years old.
"We believe that Pearce Wilson is the right person to help build our new fencing program," said Brueggemann. "He has demonstrated success in developing young, talented athletes.
"Pearce is also well-respected in the sport, not only in the St. Louis and Southern Illinois region, but across the country as well. I have no doubt that Pearce will help bring the McKendree University fencing program into the public eye very quickly."
Wilson is looking forward to the opportunity of building McKendree's newest athletic program from the ground floor.
"I'm excited beyond belief," said Wilson. "I have had a passion for the sport of fencing for a long time, and cannot wait to bring that passion to the collegiate level at McKendree.
"Fencing is a lot of fun, but the real fun to me is helping a young person set a goal, and then put in the hard work toward that goal. Using that principle as our foundation, building a successful and nationally-recognized program will result. We cannot wait to get started."
Wilson is also the author of "Foil Fencer: Apex Predator", a collection of fencing lessons for beginners to intermediate foil fencers. The book was published in 2012.