Two years ago, eight athletic Yale alumnae came together to form an “old girls network,” committed to giving back to today’s lady Bulldogs.
Administrators and alumni officially launched the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resource with the presentation of a $500,000 check during a reception at the Kiphuth Trophy Room in Payne Whitney Gymnasium Friday night. The new fund is intended to help support women’s sports teams at Yale by financing activities that are not normally considered part of the Athletic Department’s budget, including special training trips, coaches’ education and postseason play.
“Yale men have been raising money for a long time and there is some pride in staying together to help,” said WISER co-founder Susan Doten-Wellington ’81, who swam and played softball as an Eli. “Now females are just as involved as the males have been for a long time — It’s the old girls network.”
The original eight founders — Lisa Brummel ’81, Ann Keating ’77, Susanna Krentz ’80, Carol McPhillips Roberts ’81, Celia Neiman Rodrigues ’81, Lisa Rosenblum ’75, Wellington and Karen Yarasavage ’87 — raised half of the funds presented at the reception, and about 20 other individuals contributed to the rest of the endowment.
Keating, a nine-time varsity letter winner at Yale in field hockey, basketball and lacrosse, said the idea for WISER was generated about four years ago when she had dinner with Rosenblum, a former Eli tennis player.
“We thought, ‘we’ve got to do something and have an impact,'” Keating said. “We brainstormed with [Senior Associate Directory of Varsity Sports] Barbara [Chessler] and came up with an idea that would not substitute but augment the University. At first the development office said ‘no way’ and they didn’t give us the time of day, but the eight of us got together and then targeted another 20 people, mostly women athletes, and many had not given to Yale before.”
Keating, currently the managing director at the executive search firm Kornferry International, said her experiences as an athlete at Yale directly following the passage of Title IX in 1972 inspired her to found WISER.
“We had to share the field hockey field with the football parking lot,” Keating said. “On Mondays after football games, we would have to pick up broken glass and charcoal before we could practice. Women’s basketball had to practice from 8 to 10 at night after the men’s varsity and JV teams.”
Keating, described as “the mother of all sports” by Wellington, was the first recipient of the Nellie Pratt Elliot Award, given to the best female athlete in the senior class. Before her time, Yale only awarded the Mallory Award, given to the best male athlete of the senior class.
Wellington said Yale athletics taught her skills important for her career in business, and now she said WISER will allow her to give back.
“It taught me how to be a leader, analytical skills, problem solving, being a part of a team, all that and a sense of integrity,” Wellington said. “Yale taught us [female athletes] all that as well as giving back. People should get a chance to stand on other people’s shoulders.”
About 40 people attended the event, including former athletes, current players and coaches, and University administrators such as Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg and Athletic Director Tom Beckett.
Beckett said WISER will make the University, not just athletics, better.
“I would just like to be able to be in a position to respond to the needs of women at Yale,” Beckett said. “Our goal is — that their intercollegiate days on this campus are what we promised them to be — challenging and uplifting.”
Charlotte Taft ’05, a member of the women’s crew team who also attended the reception, said rowing has been in a privileged position because of its alumni donations, but she said it is wonderful to see that kind of support brought to other sports at a University-wide level.
“It’s nice to see a commitment in public saying [WISER] is something that can make a huge impact,” Taft said.
Currently, the group and the administration are undecided about how to best spend the money. Keating said they will discuss how to set up awards of grants for which coaches can apply. Beckett said there is some discussion that they should wait in order to continue campaigning for donations and make the endowment as large as possible.
Field hockey head coach Ainslee Lamb, who also attended the reception, said she would like to see the funds go to technological improvements for her team.
“Technology is so ever-changing, especially film editing,” Lamb said. “We thought a nice way to spend this money would be to be always up-to-date, whether with laptops, video cameras or editing. Any way this can help finance and support our programs will directly impact our success.”
Brummel, a former basketball player who currently works for Microsoft, said the efforts to raise funds for women athletes will extend beyond Friday night’s reception.
“This is going to go on forever,” she said. “This is the kind of thing that women will be contributing to for years.”