As Women’s History Month comes to a close, thoughts of saluting the great achievements of women continue to resonate throughout Intercollegiate Athletics.
During the weekend of Feb. 15 and 16, a College of Education reunion of sorts took place throughout campus and around DeKalb as NIU Huskie Athletics bestowed varsity letters on women athletes of the past.
Gayle Luehr, a College of Education alumna, contributed significantly to the success of the events. She was among friends: An estimated 90 percent of the alumnae who attended the event earned their degrees in the College of Ed.
“Reconnecting with not only teammates but other physical education majors was so much fun,” Luehr says. “Back in the ’70s, most athletes were P.E. majors, so we spent many hours at Anderson Hall together as students and as athletes.”
This story is republished with permission from NIU Athletics.
Northern Illinois University’s rich history of women’s intercollegiate athletics was on display the weekend of February 15-16 as part of Huskie Athletics’ NIU Legacy Celebration.
More than 60 Huskie student-athlete alumnae returned to campus for the two-day event (see list below), which recognized the contributions and accomplishments of women student-athletes from the pre-Title IX era (prior to 1981).
The Legacy Celebration events included a Friday night reception at Eduardo’s Restaurant in downtown DeKalb and Saturday’s awards breakfast, campus tour and group recognition at the NIU vs. Toledo women’s basketball game.
“The energy level was off the charts both Friday and Saturday,” said Gayle Luehr, a field hockey and basketball standout at NIU from 1973-77. “Many of us have not seen each other in 40 years, and reconnecting with old teammates and fellow physical education majors was so much fun.”
The highlight of the weekend’s events was the awarding of varsity letter plaques to women student-athlete alumnae during Saturday’s breakfast at the NIU Convocation Center. More than a few tears were present in the eyes of the award recipients, their families and friends as the proud Huskie Athletics alumnae accepted their overdue recognition.
Women representing women’s basketball, softball, volleyball, field hockey, swimming and diving, golf, tennis, badminton, fencing, gymnastics, cross country and track and field attended the Legacy Celebration, with many having played multiple sports during their time on campus. They came from across Chicagoland, throughout Illinois and from as far away as New York and Florida. Their eras stretched from 1954 to 1985.
“I was struck by the emotion when people received their awards,” said Luehr, who is a member of the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame and worked with Huskie Athletics Chief of Staff Debra Boughton and the Huskie Varsity Club to plan the Legacy Celebration events. “It was overwhelming to many of us who feel such a strong connection to NIU and to our time as a Huskie athlete. We played for the love of the game back then, and those feelings are still within each of us.”
A field hockey and basketball teammate of Luehr, Pat Fehling, also participated in track and field at NIU from 1974-78. Currently the Dean of the Faculty at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, Fehling said the Legacy Celebration was not something NIU had to do, but it was the right thing to do.
“I didn’t understand the impact of the weekend until I was having a conversation with my 15-year-old great nephews,” Fehling said. “They were totally baffled as to why we (women student-athletes) didn’t get recognized when we were competing. The conversation I had with these young men was a history lesson. They understood the inequities immediately.”
NIU’s modern training and performance facilities impressed the returning Huskie Athletes alumnae who made do with the humble resources available to women student-athletes decades ago.
“The opportunities today’s Huskies have are incredible,” said Luehr. “It was a treat to see newer facilities like the Chessick Center and the Convocation Center, but we also enjoyed going back to Anderson Hall (Physical Education building) to share stories and memories with teammates and classmates.”
To a person, varsity student-athlete alumnae who attended the Legacy Celebration events expressed appreciation to NIU for recognizing their contributions to Huskie Athletics.
“A great honor and such a blast,” said former field hockey student-athlete and current NIU Career Services staffer, Cooky Ikeler. “I had a wonderful time reconnecting with so many friends.”
Earning letters were:
- Rose Adamczyk, Field Hockey, 1977-1980
- Diane (Burkhardt) Ross, Badminton, 1973-1977
- Janet (Rodawold) Seibert, Field Hockey, 1975-1979
- Connie (Schmitt) Milz, Field Hockey, Basketball ,1966-1967
- Betty (Temple) Lowe, Field Hockey, 1974-1977
- Judy Beckwith, Tennis, Badminton, 1974-1975
- Justine Braatz, Golf, 1979-1983
- Sharon Brosius, Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, 1975-1979
- Voncile Carlson, Volleyball, Softball, 1974-1976
- Karen Cencula, Golf, 1973-1976
- Karen Chaderjian, Badminton, Tennis, Golf, 1972-1976
- Wendy Chauncey, Volleyball, 1979-1982
- Laura Crisman, Swimming and Diving, 1980-1981
- Linda Davis-Delano, Field Hockey, Badminton, Softball, 1971-1975
- Nancy Dorfman Schwartz, Badminton, Softball, 1976-1980
- Lin Falder, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, 1972-1976
- Pat Fehling, Field Hockey, Basketball, Track and Field, 1974-1978
- Ruth Fender (Heal), Basketball, Volleyball, Golf, Softball, Field Hockey, 1962-1966
- Patti Findlay Blumhorst, Track and Field, 1981-1982
- Sue Hannula, Tennis, Basketball, Softball, 1973-1976
- Sue Hansfield, Field Hockey, Track and Field, 1978-1981
- Judy Heisler-Wett, Field Hockey, Softball, 1974-1977
- Stacy Herrmann, Tennis, 1974-1975
- Marcia Hill, Softball, 1978-1980
- Pat Hoppenrath-Adamatis, Basketball, 1978-1980
- Barbara Hopper Luckenbill, Gymnastics, 1968-1971
- Janet Hrasch, Softball, Golf, Volleyball, 1972-1978
- Kathleen (Cooky) Ikeler, Badminton, 1974-1979
- Sue Jablonski-Piccione, Gymnastics, 1978-1979
- Jane Jacobs, Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, 1974-1978
- Karen Judge, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, 1970-1974
- Sandy Kelly, Swimming and Diving, 1968-1972
- Sheri Kluga, Swimming and Diving, 1977-1979
- Cindy Komar, Badminton, 1975-1977
- Carol Koszola, Basketball, Softball, Golf, 1968-1972
- Sheryl Larsen, Swimming and Diving, 1980-1984
- Gayle Luehr, Field Hockey, Basketball, 1973-1977
- Sandra Lutz, Field Hockey, Softball, Volleyball, 1966-1970
- Donna Martin, Field Hockey, Softball, 1977-1981
- Mary Kay Merema, Tennis, 1976-1979
- Sharon Mitchell, Field Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, 1962-1965
- Pam Murray, Field Hockey, Badminton, Softball, 1975-1978
- Mona Mustafa, Field Hockey, 1983-1985
- Carol Olson, Badminton, 1980-1981
- Pamela Orton Anderson, Basketball, Softball, 1965-1968
- Linda Oster, Basketball, Softball, 1968-1972
- Jean Pankonin, Basketball, Volleyball, Softball, Field Hockey, Badminton, Tennis, 1957-1961
- Deb Pettit, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, 1970-1974
- Carol Plodzien, Basketball, Softball, 1969-1971
- Patty Potas-Eagleton, Tennis, Badminton, 1974-1975
- Mina Pratt, Field Hockey, Volleyball, Basketball, 1954-1958
- Judy (Judith) Ronaldson, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, 1975-1979
- Stephanie Rossman, Basketball, Softball, In honor of Christine LoMonaco, 1968-1973
- Lynn Schultz Valastyan, Tennis, 1975-1978
- Jill Schwartz, Field Hockey, 1978
- Clare Severson, Gymnastics, 1978-1979
- Michele (Mickey) Smith, Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Field Hockey, 1962-1966
- Betsy Steffenhagen Tekampe, Basketball, Softball, 1973-1976
- Kathy Totel, Basketball, Softball, Field Hockey, 1969-1973
- Jamie Turner, Basketball, Softball, 1974-1978
- Meribeth Tyrrell Lally, Cross Country, Track and Field, 1980-1981
- Tate Vasseur, Softball, 1980-1981
- Susan Webber, Softball, 1976
- Judy Weber-Krause, Basketball, 1979-1983
- Paula Wick, Basketbal,l 1978-1982
- Irene Wojtysiak, Volleyball, Fencing, 1967-1969
- Chris Woodard, Field Hockey, Badminton, Softball, 1968-1972
- Leslie Worcester, Volleyball, 1971-1973
- Kerry Yuen, Swimming and Diving, 1976-1979
- Mary Beth Zolli, Field Hockey, Basketball, Softball, 1972-1976