Women in Sports Reception celebrates donors, success of scholar-athletesBy Mark Soltau February 15, 2013, 9:38 pm
The 8th Annual Buck/Cardinal Club Women in Sports Reception was held last week at the Bechtel Conference Center at Encina Hall on the Stanford University campus. An enthusiastic crowd of more than 150 attendees including coaches, current and former scholar-athletes, donors, and invited guests gathered to help celebrate the growth and success of women’s sports.
Following refreshments and a silent auction, Liz Muir and Bernard Muir, the Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics, spoke to the audience about the importance of women’s sports and thanked trailblazers like Linda Meier, ’61, for creating the Cardinal Club (a precursor to the current Buck/Cardinal Club) in 1978, which has provided scholarship aid and program support for women’s teams at Stanford.
“The history that we celebrate is second to none,” said Liz Muir, an all-ACC volleyball player at University of North Carolina and a mother of two young daughters. “In six short months, I’ve seen my daughters’ goals change, just because of Stanford. Athletics can open doors.”
Both daughters are active in sports.
“Sports have been the connector to family time and the community,” she said.
Bernard Muir played basketball at Brown University.
“They get their athleticism from their mom,” he said of his daughters.
Meier volunteered with visionaries like Peg Barnard; Cameron Bianchi, ’68; Frank Lodato, ’49, MA ’56; Dick Madigan, ’46, MBA ’49; Donna Garton, ’79; Jim Plunkett, ’70; Nancy Ditz, ’76; and others to pave the way for women’s sports at Stanford, six years after the creation of Title IX. They generously donated time, money, and guidance to help scholar-athletes follow their dreams and excel in and out of the classroom.
“It was challenging,” said Meier. “Some people were concerned that we were going to decrease the donations to the men’s programs—to the Buck Club—when, in reality, we enhanced them. It was a new concept. Andy Geiger (former Stanford athletic director) was really responsible for that and we have him to thank.”
Meier said Barnard was the catalyst.
“It was her vision,” she said. “She wanted financial support for women’s scholarships and asked me to help set up a structure and organizational program.”
Meier asked Plunkett, a great quarterback at Stanford and the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner, if he wanted to do something for women’s sports. Plunkett graciously agreed to host a golf tournament, and together with his wife, Gerry, they held it for 25 years, raising more than $1 million.
“We actually did it with the intention of raising money for women’s sports, but helped men’s sports as well,” said Plunkett, whose daughter, Meghan, is an assistant volleyball coach at Menlo-Atherton High School. “It changed women’s sports in a big way and we were glad to be a part of it.”
John Tanner, ’82, the Director of Women’s Water Polo, conducted a question and answer session at the reception with Cardinal standouts Annika Dries and Melissa Seidemann. Dries, a junior from Laguna Beach, California, and Seidemann, a senior from Walnut Creek, California, helped lead Team USA to its first-ever gold medal in the Summer Olympics in London.
“If I hadn’t had my first two years at Stanford to build my confidence, I wouldn’t have done what I did,” said Seidemann, a sociology major. “You have to set goals that are attainable. A lot of my goal-setting came from being competitive.”
Dries recalled being motivated by former Stanford All-American Ellen Estes Lee, ’00, a two-time Olympian and 2012 inductee into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame.
“I started playing when I was 12 and remember being with her at a clinic,” said Dries, who is majoring in human biology. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m in the water with an Olympian.’ That was one of the moments that inspired me.”
Seidemann found inspiration through her older sister and was constantly trying to outdo her.
“She was one of my mentors and made sure I blossomed in the sport,” Seidemann said.
Dries also credited her mother, a composer, who didn’t know the first thing about water polo.
“To see her persevere in a man’s world … I loved her passion,” she said.
Dries’ mom changed her tune when her daughter informed her she had been accepted to Stanford.
“Hey, Stanford’s the real deal,” Dries told her daughter. “This is looking great.”
Asked what it felt like to be on the medal stand at the Olympics when the Star Spangled Banner was played, Annika said, “No words can describe it.”
Tanner’s mother, Ginger, and father, Ted, ’54, MBA ’58, were in attendance. Ted lived on the fifth floor of Encina Hall when he attended Stanford in 1950 and played in the 1952 Rose Bowl. His quarterly tuition was $220, or about the same cost of one of Annika’s biology books.
“These girls make everyone proud,” said Meier. “They’re extraordinary, all of these athletes. Quality is something that is so persuasive throughout the entire institution, and they just represent it so well.”