Celebrating half a century of women’s varsity athletics

Yale Athletics

This weekend, former student athletes will return to campus to celebrate 50 years of women’s varsity athletics at Yale.

Festive events are set to take place October 14-16including a dinner at the home of University President Peter Salovey and presentations on the history of women’s athletics at Yale and the hope that women’s athletics across the country will continue to evolve.

The weekend has been in the works for two and a half years, according to Maura Grogan ’78, who chairs the Yale Women’s Athletic Network.

“It’s a complex three-day event with a lot of moving parts – three panel discussions, a sold-out gala dinner with a keynote address, a reception at Salovey’s, a presentation from the Sterling Library’s archives on the history women’s sports at Yale, field hockey and volleyball games, and much more,” wrote Grogan, who played for the first women’s hockey team at Yale and went on to compete in the 1976 Olympics in as a luge.

18 figures from women’s varsity athletics at the University will be featured in three panel events. This includes current and former athletes, coaches and athletic director Vicky Chun.

Chun is the first ever woman to lead Yale Athletics, as well as the first Asian American. She is also the first Asian American woman to serve as director of NCAA Division I athletics. Previously, she was director of athletics at Colgate University – her alma mater – where she also played volleyball as an undergraduate, eventually becoming head coach. Chun began his tenure with the Bulldogs on July 1, 2018.

“As Yale’s first female Athletic Director, I am honored and grateful to celebrate our past and current student-athletes,” Chun wrote to the News. “None of us would be here at Yale without our Pioneers and Pioneers whom we celebrate and honor this historic weekend.”

For the women who will attend, this event aims to build relationships with other members of the Yale women’s athletics community, celebrate contributions, and work to build both the skills and the community needed to continue. to do better.

Chelsea Kung ’23, part of the varsity women’s tennis team, said she wanted this series of events to facilitate connections between generations of female varsity athletes at Yale, providing mentorship and a network of support for current and future Yale female athletes.

“My greatest hope is that current Yale student-athletes see these accomplished women as mentors and people to look up to when their time on the Yale playing surface comes to an end,” Kung wrote to the News. “It’s something that drove me to be the woman I am today, and I just hope this event will be a catalyst to inspire the next generation of successful women around the world.”

Grogan expressed similar sentiments, commenting that being an athlete helped her succeed in her studies at Yale, but also provided “the foundation” for the rest of her life, specifically noting the confidence the sport gave her.

Thus, Grogan hopes that this weekend’s celebration will help empower women.

“Given the various inequalities that remain for women in the United States and around the world, I hope we can harness our wits, energy, and Yale’s global reputation to achieve equity soon,” he said. she writes.

This weekend’s events also celebrate 50 years since Title IX passed in June 1972.

Passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and signed into law by the 92nd U.S. Congress, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any school or educational program that receives federal government funding. Athletics, which is considered part of an institution’s educational program, is covered by this law.

While Title IX was passed in 1972, conditions for female athletes were still not equal. Some women’s teams continued to be harassed and had poorer facilities than their male counterparts.

In addition to being harassed, the Yale women’s team lacked access to a proper locker room in freezing conditions and received fewer boats than the men’s teams.

In March 1976, the Yale women’s team walked into the office of Joni Barnett, then director of women’s athletics and physical education, and stripped naked in protest. On their bodies were written either “TITLE IX” or “IX”, and Captain Christine Ernst ’76 read aloud a statement demanding equal treatment.

“Our experience was like being underwater or in a mine – you want to come up to the surface or into the light – you know you have to, to live like the person you were born to be, but you don’t know what you’ll find when you get in the sun and in the air,” Ernst wrote in an email to the News. “There was no a la carte or menu for what was to follow.”

Katrina Garry ’18, a varsity track alumnus, discussed the importance of Title IX in women’s varsity sports. Garry is now an assistant Title IX coordinator at the University of San Francisco and has been involved in planning this weekend’s lineup since 2019.

Garry was part of a September event featuring four decades of Yale women reflecting on the impact of Title IX on women’s athletics. The panel, moderated by Regina Sullivan ’83, included Garry, Lisa Brummel ’81 and Mónica Lebrón ’01. Brummel is the owner of the WNBA Seattle Storm team, and Lebrón is the assistant director of athletics at the University of Tennessee. Sullivan is assistant director of athletics at Northeastern University.

“It was a chance for a lot of us to feel lucky that we don’t have a world without Title IX,” Garry told The News. “Many of the pioneering Yalies who were on the first varsity field hockey team, swim team, ice hockey team…had to fight for opportunities in high school or were on teams of boys.”

The university’s Title IX coordinator, Elizabeth Conklin, spoke of the “new opportunities” for women at Yale over the past half-century.

Conklin is also Yale’s Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity, Access, and Belonging.

“Athletics is an integral part of our university’s programs and activities, and we celebrate this landmark 50th anniversary for women’s varsity athletics at Yale as well as the passing of Title IX, which opened up new opportunities and pathways for generations of students at Yale,” she wrote. in an email to the News.

But even with great strides, Garry recognized there was still work to be done.

“It is essential to reflect on how far we have come, but the conversation also highlighted the battles we are still fighting, whether it is the prevention of sexual abuse and violence in sport, pay equity at the professional level or the inclusion of trans people and non-binary athletes in athletics,” Garry told The News.

Since May 2418 states have enacted laws or issued statewide rules that prohibit or limit the participation of transgender athletes in sports.

For Yuliia Zhukovets ’23, who is currently a member of the squash team, a central part of this weekend’s focus is looking ahead.

Similar to Garry, Zhukovets hopes attendees can reflect on the past, praising Yale Women’s Athletics graduates for all their hard work, but also remembering that “there is so much more to achieve.”

“I hope current female athletes at Yale take this weekend as an inspiration to continue giving 100% and more to their sports and standing up for themselves,” Zhukovets told The News. “At the same time, I think it would be incredibly rewarding for female athletes at Yale to see all the amazing things that have been accomplished over the past 50 years and how influential their contribution has been.”

Yale Athletics and YWAN officially announced the February 2 weekend events – which also marked the 36th annual celebration of the National Day of Girls and Women in Sport.

In the ad, YWAN also promoted its own fundraising campaign, in conjunction with Yale’s broader “For Humanity” fundraising efforts. Yale launched this $7 billion “For Humanity” campaign last year, which is the University’s largest fundraising campaign to date.

YWAN noted its goal of raising $5 million for the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resource, or WISER, which is “the first and only endowment fund” that supports all of Yale’s 18 women’s college programs, according to the report. ‘announcement.

The YWAN Committee, made up largely of alumni, guided much of the planning for this weekend’s programming. Grogan and Garry are both members, as is Zhukovets, who is currently a student.

Over the past 50 years, Yale has grown from zero varsity women’s teams to 18.27 of Yale’s female athletes who have also competed as Olympians.

Grayson Lambert, Paloma Vigil and Hamera Shabbir contributed reporting.


Anika Seth writes about admissions, financial aid, and alumni as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion at Yale. She also presents the weekly print edition of the News as Managing Editor of the Production Office and is Co-Chair of Diversity and Inclusion. Anika previously covered STEM at Yale, specifically new facility projects and investments. Originally from the DC metro area, Anika is a sophomore at Branford College majoring in biomedical engineering and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

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