Six of the nine Eli alumnae who co-founded the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resource, or WISER, returned to campus last weekend to demonstrate their continued support for Yale’s female athletes.
At a reception in the President’s Room of Woolsey Hall on Friday evening, Lisa Brummel ’81, Michelle Swanson ’82, Nancy Cahill ’79, Anne Keating ’77, Susie Krentz ’80 and Susan Wellington ’81 spoke to a roomful of about 150 current female athletes in a question-and-answer session moderated by Yale Associate Dean Penelope Laurens. WISER, a fund devoted to the advancement of women’s sports at Yale, is one of the first university endowments in the country intended specifically for women, its founders said, and the first in the Ivy League.
So far, WISER’s nine co-founders have raised approximately $700,000, and the events of the weekend were in part a celebration of the fund’s nearing its goal of $1 million. The questions fielded at the initial reception dealt mostly with the transition from college athletics to the professional world.
“The tenacity that you learn as an athlete and the passion that you have for what you do will make you successful,” Brummel told the students.
The women offered advice for balancing a career and a family, discussed competition in the workplace, and told stories from their years as athletes at Yale. A roundtable discussion with WISER committee members and other alumni was held the next day, followed by a Youth Day and Youth Fair.
WISER was conceived at a January 2002 dinner between Keating and Lisa Rosenblum ’75, a co-founder of the endowment who did not attend the reception. Keating and Rosenblum contacted other female alumni of the Yale Athletics program and got seven other women involved. At first the women had a difficult time getting the development office to take them seriously, but with the support of Yale Athletics, they soon began raising money.
Brummel, who ran track and played volleyball, basketball and softball at Yale and is now a vice president at Microsoft, helped jump-start the endowment with a $100,000 check.
“I thought it was a groundbreaking activity, and I wanted to have something to get people’s attention,” she said.
Some recent developments for WISER were the establishment of an undergraduate council and a council composed of faculty members and administrators. Michelle Quibell ’06, the two-time defending individual national champion squash player who works with Senior Associate Athletic Director Barbara Chesler, helped get the undergraduate council up and running. Since then, athletes such as volleyball player Renee Lopes ’06 and women’s lacrosse player Lauren Taylor ’08 have worked to plan the weekend’s events and encourage their teammates to attend, Quibell said.
Other alumni said they also felt strongly about the advancement of women’s sports at Yale, especially given their own experiences as student athletes at the very beginning of the women’s athletics program.
“Many of us came in on the wave of Title IX,” Swanson said. “Now we’re in a position, professionally, to write those checks.”
Kathy LaPorte ’83, who was on the varsity swim team and contributed $50,000 to WISER, said she would not have given money to the University generally, but she was happy to donate to women’s athletics.
“When I think back about my Yale experience, it was a mixed bag,” LaPorte said. “What I loved about Yale was my experience as an athlete.”
The co-founders of WISER are excellent examples of how young woman athletes at Yale can help each other and provide leadership examples for one another, Athletic Director Tom Beckett said.
“They’re extraordinary role models,” he said. “They’ve put together this incredible endowment that will help women at Yale for generations.”
None of the funds from the endowment has been disbursed yet, Brummel said, and the next year or two will probably be devoted to planning and fund raising.
Most of the current undergraduates at the reception seemed unsure of what the fund would be used for.
“That’s why we’re here,” rower Laura Harringa ’08 said. “To learn more.”
Still, Rebecca Wojciak ’09, who is on the women’s softball team, said she found the women of WISER inspiring.
“They were amazing,” she said. “They have all that self-confidence … If they had as much fun helping us as we had hearing them, it was all worth it.”
Keating said the support system among female Elis that WISER fosters is even more important than the money.
“We need to give back so that other people can step on our shoulders,” she said.