This weekend, alumni will return to campus to celebrate 50 years of women’s varsity athletics at Yale.
Festive events are scheduled from October 14th to 16thincluding a dinner at the home of University President Peter Salovey and presentations on the history of women’s athletics at Yale and hopes for how women’s athletics will advance across the country.
According to Maura Grogan ’78, chairwoman of the Yale Women’s Athletic Network, the weekend has been a work in progress for the past two and a half years.
“It’s a complex three-day event with many moving parts – three panel discussions, a sold-out gala dinner with a policy discussion, a reception at the Salovey home, a Sterling Library archival presentation on the history of women’s sports at Yale, field hockey and volleyball games and much more.” , wrote Grogan, who played for Yale’s premier women’s hockey team and later competed as a luger at the 1976 Olympics.
18 personalities from women’s university athletics at the university will be presented in three panel events. This includes current and former athletes, coaches and athletic director Vicky Chun.
Chun is the first woman to lead Yale Athletics, as well as the first Asian American. She is also the first Asian American to ever serve as NCAA Division I Director of Athletics. She was previously the Director of Athletics at Colgate University – her alma mater – where she also played volleyball as a student and eventually became the head coach. Chun began her tenure with the Bulldogs on July 1, 2018.
“As Yale’s first woman to serve as its athletic director, I feel humbled 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 enablers whom we celebrate and honor this historic weekend.”
For participating women, this event is about building relationships with other members of the Yale women’s athletics community, celebrating contributions, and working to build both the skills and community needed to continue competing for to use better.
Chelsea Kung ’23, who is on the varsity women’s tennis team, said she wants this series of events to facilitate connections between the generations of Yale varsity women athletes and provide mentorship and a support network for current and future women athletes at Yale.
“My greatest hope is that current students at Yale will see these accomplished women as mentors and people to look up to when their time on the Yale playing field comes to an end,” Kung wrote to the news. “It’s something that has propelled me to be the woman I am today and I just hope this event is a catalyst to inspire the next generation of successful women in the world.”
Expressing similar sentiments, Grogan commented that being an athlete at Yale helped her achieve academic success but also provided “the foundation” for the rest of her life, noting in particular the confidence the sport gave her.
As such, Grogan hopes this weekend’s celebrations will help empower women.
“Given the various injustices that exist for women in the United States and around the world, I am confident that we can use our wisdom, energy and Yale’s global reputation to achieve justice soon,” she wrote.
This weekend’s events also celebrate 50 years since the passage of Title IX in June 1972.
Passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 and enacted by the 92nd US Congress, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in any school or educational program funded by the federal government. Athletics that are considered part of an institution’s educational program fall under 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 worse facilities than their male peers.
Adding to the annoyances, Yale’s women’s team did not have access to a proper dressing room in freezing temperatures and received fewer boats than the men’s teams.
In March 1976, the Yale women’s team marched into the office of then-Director of Women’s Athletics and Physical Education Joni Barnett and stripped in protest. Their bodies were marked either “TITLE IX” or “IX” and Captain Christine Ernst ’76 read a statement demanding equal treatment.
“Our experience was like being under water or in a mine – you want to surface or to the light – you know you have to in order to live as the person you were born to be, but you don’t know what you are.” will find when you get out into the sun and into the air,” Ernst wrote in an email to the News. “There was no map or menu for what’s next.”
Katrina Garry ’18, a varsity careers graduate, discussed the importance of Title IX in women’s varsity sports. Garry is now Associate Title IX Coordinator at the University of San Francisco and has been involved in planning this weekend’s program since 2019.
Garry was part of an event in September with 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 team Seattle Storm, and Lebrón is the associate director of athletics at the University of Tennessee. Sullivan is the associate director of athletics at Northeastern University.
“It was an opportunity for many of us to reflect on how fortunate we are not to know a non-Title IX world,” Garry told the News. “A lot of the pioneering Yalies who were on the first varsity field hockey team, swim team, ice hockey team … struggled to get opportunities in high school or were on boys’ teams.”
Elizabeth Conklin, coordinator of University Title IX, discussed the “new opportunities” presented to women at Yale over the past half century.
Conklin is also Yale Associate Vice President for Institutional Justice, Access and Belonging.
“Athletics is an integral part of our university’s programs and activities, and we are celebrating this 50th anniversary for both Yale’s women’s varsity athletics and the passage of Title IX, opening new opportunities and avenues for generations of Yale students opened,” she wrote in an email to the News.
But despite great progress, Garry recognized that there is still work to be done.
“It’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come, but the conversation also highlighted the battles we’re still fighting, whether it’s preventing abuse and sexual violence in sport, wage equity at a professional level, or inclusion for transgender and non- binary athletes in athletics,” Garry told the News.
From May 24th18 states have enacted laws or enacted statewide rules excluding or restricting the participation of transgender athletes in sports.
For Yuliia Zhukovets ’23, who is currently a member of the squash team, a key part of this weekend’s goal is looking to the future.
Similar to Garry, Zhukovets hopes the participants will be able to reflect on the past and commends the Yale women’s track and field graduates for all their efforts, but also recalls that “there is still so much to do”.
“I hope that the current Yale athletes will take this weekend as an inspiration to continue giving 100 percent and more to their sport and to stand up for themselves,” Zhukovets told the news. “At the same time, I think it would be incredibly rewarding for returning Yale athletes to see all the amazing things that have been accomplished over the last 50 years and how influential their contribution has been.”
Yale Athletics and YWAN formally announced the events of the February 2nd weekend – which also marked the 36th annual celebration of National Day of Girls and Women in Sport.
In the announcement, YWAN also promoted its own fundraising campaign in conjunction with Yale’s broader fundraising effort, For Humanity. Yale created this $7 billion For Humanity campaign. last year, the university’s largest fundraising campaign to date.
YWAN cited its goal of raising $5 million for the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resource, or WISER, which it announced is “the first and only foundation” to support all of Yale’s 18 varsity women’s programs.
The YWAN committee, made up largely of alumni, led much of the planning for this weekend’s program. Grogan and Garry are both members, as is Zhukovets, who is currently a student.
Over the past 50 years, Yale has gone 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 coverage.