WMU News

Overdue recognition coming for past female athletes

March 13, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- Turns out, you can change the past.

Western Michigan University will recognize former female student-athletes with a varsity letter celebration, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18. Varsity letters will be awarded to women student-athletes who competed at WMU from the 1940s through 1970s.

It wasn't until the early 1980s that two organizations, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)--acting on Title IX legislation--formalized women's participation in athletics to match that of their male counterparts. As a result, only female student-athletes over the last two decades have been presented varsity letters. Records indicate organized womens sports at most colleges and universities dates back much earlier.

The large scale, retroactive awards ceremony will be one of the firsts in the Mid-American Conference, and just the fourth in the state, recognizing the "founding mothers" of intercollegiate athletics at WMU.

"This acknowledgement has been a long time coming," said Director of Athletics Kathy Beauregard. "Today our women's programs are some of the best in the MAC. We could not thank these women enough for laying the foundation that they did."

A committee consisting of former athletes, coaches, administrators along with current staffers was formed to identify qualified letterwinners from the past. In addition, the WMU athletic department used emails, print advertisements and web page promotion to attract the attention of as many former athletes as possible.

"I don't think anyone expected this kind of 'grand finale' to our athletic endeavors," said Ann Kasdorf, who played softball and basketball during the 1970s. "This is a wonderful, unexpected honor."

Varsity awards will be presented at a ceremonious dinner on Oct. 18 in the Bernhard Center ballroom. Recipients will also be recognized during the WMU versus Ball State volleyball match that day.

For more information, contact Kim Thebo in athletic corporate relations at (269) 387-2057, or visit the Varsity Women's Reunion Web site at <www.wmich.edu/wmu/women>.

Media contact: Daniel Jankowski, 269 387-4138, daniel.jankowski@wmich.edu

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