Celebrating 125 Years of Women’s Athletics – March 11

Join Elon's Women’s/Gender Studies Program and Elon Athletics as they celebrate the history and achievements of women’s athletics at Elon during Women’s History Month.

Picture of women's tennis club outside of West Dormitory in 1913.
There was a time in Elon’s history when female students could not attend an athletic event unless a faculty member accompanied them, much less be allowed to use the gym to play sports.

While things have changed for the better, the trajectory of women’s athletics at Elon is seldom explored. The Women’s/Gender Studies Program Advisory Council, together with Elon Athletics, hope to change that by hosting an event on March 11 to celebrate the history and achievements of women’s athletics at the institution.

“Celebrating 125 Years of Women’s Athletics” will begin with a reception at 4:15 p.m. in the Isabella Cannon Room, Center for the Arts, followed by a panel discussion with current and former Elon athletes from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Attendees will learn the history of women’s athletics at Elon, hear personal stories from athletes, and view a digital display of archival photos from the early years to today.

“We hope people will come away from the event with a sense of both awareness and celebration,” said Lee Bush, associate professor of communications and W/GS advisory council member. “It’s important to be aware of women’s history, to recognize that there have been different histories for different groups of students at Elon, while also celebrating how far we have come in obtaining equal participation.”

<p>Picture of the women's basketball team in 1974.</p>
For instance, Bush added, even when Elon didn’t have intercollegiate women’s sports, female students organized their own sports as early as 1913, when 31 female students formed a tennis club. The “official” beginning of the women’s athletic program occurred in 1922 with the forming of the Girls Athletic Association, and it wasn’t until 1971 that basketball became the first women’s varsity sport at Elon, a year before Title IX was enacted. “Elon was a year ahead of time,” she said.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014, W/GS was one of Elon’s flagship interdisciplinary minors and continues to support student and faculty scholars while creating a campus community that fosters tolerance and promotes equity. The March 11 event also coincides with Elon’s 125th anniversary Founders Day celebration and Women’s History Month, which theme for this year is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”

Panelists for the event include:

Priscilla Awkard ’95: Starting setter for Elon’s volleyball team from 1991-94 where she broke numerous records that still stand today. She is a member of the Elon Sports Hall of Fame, continues to play competitive volleyball and is a coach and administrator at Jammers Volleyball Club. 

Dr. Janie Brown: Professor Emerita of Physical Education and an Elon Medallion recipient who served more than 20 years as chair of Elon’s physical education department. She was a trailblazer in advancing the women’s athletic program, and is the past president of the board of directors of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Jackie Myers: Head women’s basketball and tennis coach for Elon from 1985-94. She is an Elon Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was assistant athletic director at Geneva College and is currently the athletic director at Meredith College.

Faith Shearer: Associate athletic director of Elon Athletics and senior woman administrator since 2002.  Oversees Phoenix women’s basketball, lacrosse, track and field, tennis and volleyball programs, and coordinates gender and diversity efforts for the department. She has also served on numerous committees for the Southern Conference and NCAA.

Sloane Kessler ’17: Lacrosse player, first-year Elon student and communications major from Owings Mill, Md. At McDonogh High School, she was a 2012 IAAM all-star and also won awards in basketball and field hockey. 

Ana Nicksic ’16: Elon sophomore from Valparaiso, Ind., exercise science major and setter on the volleyball team.  She was named to the NCCSIA All-State Second Team, and earned Elon’s top newcomer award in 2012.

Rod Clare, associate professor of history and member of the W/GS Advisory Council, will serve as the panel moderator.