This weekend, the Eastern College Athletic Conference will honor Yale’s Senior Associate Athletic Director Barbara Chesler for her commitment to promoting women’s athletics both at Yale and across the country.
Chesler will receive ECAC’s Katherine Ley Award at a dinner Sunday evening. A 23-year veteran of the Yale Athletics Department, Chesler has encouraged the competitiveness of Yale sports teams and helped raise money specifically to support women’s athletics.
The Katherine Ley Award honors a women’s athletics administrator who demonstrates the values and characteristics that Ley embodied, according to ECAC. In the late 1960s, Ley founded the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, the predecessor to the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. These organizations paved the way for the NCAA’s eventual incorporation of women’s athletics in 1982.
Chesler began her career in college athletics when she played field hockey for Indiana University. She went on to coach at the University of Iowa and at Manhattanville College in New York. After she learned more about athletic programs in the Ancient Eight from a friend at Columbia, Chesler jumped at the chance to come to Yale in 1985.
Chesler said she has since strived to abide by the principles of the Ivy League. She seeks to be a role model and an advocate for women athletes at Yale and across the country.
Chesler said she is especially proud of helping to create a strong women’s rowing program and building the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Endowment and Resources fund.
Women’s lacrosse player Jennifer Ward ’09 said she has enjoyed working closely with Chesler for the WISER fund.
“It has been great working with her because she is so clearly dedicated to women’s sports at Yale and to creating exceptional experiences for the athletes, such as the networking events through WISER,” Warden said. “She has such a dedicated following of alumni, as shown by the positive attendance and feedback for WISER events.”
Many of the alumni involved in WISER events are women whom Chesler mentored when they were undergraduates.
Chesler said athletics — especially women’s sports — have changed a lot since some of these alumni were on the fields and the courts. When she arrived, the level of competition that Yale squads routinely faced was significantly weaker than what it is today. In the 1980s, it was more common for Eli women to play Division III teams instead of high-profile programs. Chesler said that watching Yale women’s volleyball’s recent games against Penn State and Stanford, ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the national poll, was a real highlight of her career.
Chesler said she is proud to see the commitment Yale has made to seeking out more challenging competition during her time here. She believes Yale now boasts one of the top programs in the nation, and she is very proud to be a part of this distinguished institution.
“But I didn’t do this on my own,” she said. “The award is in my name, but I represent intercollegiate athletics here at Yale. Everyone here contributes because no can do everything by his or herself.”
Recently, Chesler has been heavily involved in planning extensive renovations to various athletics facilities.
“Barbara Chesler has been an outstanding college athletic administrator her entire career,” Director of Athletics Thomas Beckett said.
As much as the modest Chesler credits her colleagues in the Athletics Department, they are just as aware of how fortunate they are to work by her side.
“The recognition she is receiving from the ECAC is most deserving and a source of pride for all who know her and her work,” Beckett said.