While she has excelled in many fields, one Yale alumna has just won national recognition for what may be called her master stroke.
Olympic rower Ginny Gilder ’79 is among six former student-athletes who will receive the annual NCAA Silver Anniversary Award Jan. 11 in Nashville, Tenn. The award honors former collegiate stars who have gone on to distinguishing careers in a variety of fields in the 25 years since their graduation. Recipients were selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, a panel made up of prominent former student-athletes and administrators from NCAA-affiliated institutions.
“It’s a huge honor to be named for this award,” said Gilder, who is often credited with helping end the question of women’s rowing abilities.
Gilder was a member of the varsity rowing team from 1977 to 1979, and then went on to compete for the U.S. National Team from 1982 to 1983, winning a bronze medal in the single sculls at the 1983 World Championships. She was also a member of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams, earning a silver medal in 1984 as the stroke in the quadruple sculls.
In 1977, Gilder helped stage a chest-baring “strip-in” protesting the abysmal lack of women’s crew facilities that caught the attention of the national media. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the time,” Gilder said.
Now a successful businesswoman, Gilder credits her collegiate rowing experiences as an inspiration for her career achievements.
“I loved my time with the women’s crew team while I was at Yale,” she said. “It made my college years great, and probably was what kept me there. I loved being part of a team and learning all about sports, since I had never been much of an athlete or anything.”
Gilder said that, as one of the relatively few women who have received the award so far — about 15 — she hopes to be “on the vanguard of more women recipients.” She attributes the change to the development of the Title IX statute of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in federally assisted education programs, including athletics. As a result, male and female sports programs must receive equal funding.
Will Porter, the current women’s crew head coach, said he admires Gilder’s contributions as a role model as well as her athletic abilities.
“She is a person of vision who has the ability to actually do what she envisions being possible.” Porter said. “Obviously, she is a huge part of the history of Yale crew, as an athlete and an [alumna]. To our current athletes, she is a living, breathing example of the level of success as an athlete and a person that can be accomplished by taking advantage of the opportunities at Yale. She is an example of a powerful, successful woman.”
A member of the U.S. Rowing Association’s board of directors, Gilder championed the creation of a New Haven-area Community Rowing Program. With her father, Richard Gilder ’54, she donated $4 million towards the construction of the Gilder Boathouse, which replaced the aging Bob Cook Boat House when it opened in 2000.
The Gilder Boathouse serves as home to the new community program as well as the University’s crew teams. It provides storage space for shells and boats, office and meeting spaces, and shower and locker room facilities, as well as a vantage point from which to view the finish line of the 2,000-meter race course.
Barbara Chesler, the university’s senior associate athletic director, congratulated Gilder on the award, and cited Gilder’s many community service ventures as award-worthy.
“The Silver Anniversary Award is one of the most prestigious awards given by the NCAA and no one is a more deserving recipient than Ginny Gilder,” Chesler said. “For the past 25 years, she has remained an active alum and leader for the Yale women’s rowing community. Ginny’s first priority is always about what is best for the community at large.”
In 1998, Gilder became a principal at Volute, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to helping non-profit, public service organizations accomplish their stated aims. In 1991, she founded Washington Works, a non-profit job training and placement center for welfare recipients in Seattle, and served as its executive director until 1996. She is also on the board of directors for the Seattle Girls School.
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