Saint Mary’s Honors Former Athletes

Saint Mary’s hosts reception to recognize the 50th Anniversary of Title IX

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Saint Mary’s College welcomed back over 50 former Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame athletes to campus. Both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame held events all weekend long to honor the women who paved the way for all women’s athletic programs at Notre Dame. In total, 287 Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame alumnae received honorary monograms from the Notre Dame Monogram Club for their contributions to women in sports.

Saint Mary’s hosted the Cheer Her Name Reception on Friday evening in Angela Athletic & Wellness Complex. The honorees from Saint Mary’s were women from class years 1975-1981, including Janel Schliesmann ’76, who traveled from Venice, Florida for the weekend. Schliesmann stayed busy as a Saint Mary’s student-athlete, playing golf in the fall and spring at Saint Marys. In the winter months, she participated on the ski team for Notre Dame. Schliesmann remembers that at the time of playing collegiate sports, she had no idea the impact she was making on the future of women’s athletics. “I was just doing what I loved,” she said.

Ann Deighen Buckley ’78 explained having the same experience, as a female athlete in the 1970s. “On the rowing team and in the classroom at Saint Mary’s, I worked with women who did not see limitations. They only saw opportunities,” Buckley said. “We never worried about how much we didn’t know, we just had fun.”

Now, surrounded by teammates and current Saint Mary’s student-athletes, Schliesmann and Buckley can see their influence. “I feel very honored to be recognized as a female athlete who paved the way for women's sports,” said Schliesmann. 

Fifty-two Saint Mary’s student-athletes, as well as a number of staff members who participated in athletics while at Saint Mary’s, were also in attendance Friday night. “These women were our trailblazers,” said Saint Mary’s Athletic Director Julie Schroeder-Biek ’88. While at Saint Mary’s, Schroeder-Biek played volleyball and says because of her time as an athlete, she feels a personal debt to all who fought for women to have the opportunity to participate in sports. 

“Because our current student-athletes have had so many opportunities and options in sport throughout their lives, they have probably never experienced a closed door in their world of athletics,” said Schroeder-Biek. “I want them to hear the stories these women have to tell of their experiences and gain an even deeper understanding and appreciation for the opportunities that we have today because of women like them.”

The night began with a warm welcome from President Katie Conboy. “Sports also build patience, endurance and confidence. Whether your field hockey stick is hanging on your office wall or your tennis racquet is still in your hand, you are modeling a commitment to the empowerment of women and girls. Thank you for inspiring us all,” said President Conboy.

A “Then and Now” panel discussion with honorees and current Saint Mary’s student-athletes wrapped up the evening. Marilyn Crimmins Benkelman ’75, Anne Dilenschneider (ND ’77), Patricia O’Donnell (ND ’78), Jillian Bowen ’23, Christina Shadid ’23, and Alexis Zeese ’23 discussed their various experiences.  “There was a sense of unity between the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s women. We had a common purpose to not only do well in school together but to perform well together,” said O’Donnell.

Title IX was enacted in 1972, prohibiting sex-based discrimination. The same year, Notre Dame enrolled its first class of undergraduate women, and women’s varsity sports teams followed, with Saint Mary’s students playing a major role throughout this transition. Currently, there are eight varsity sports at Saint Mary’s, with all opportunities available to our students because of the women who came before them.

On Saturday, the 287 athletes from both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame were honored at a special ceremony and recognized during the Notre Dame football game. 


The Saint Mary’s Honorees

S. Ahoy ’75, Sailing

Laure Prestine Albert ’78, Rowing

Kathy Banbury ’77, Skiing

Marilyn Crimmins Benkelman, ’75 Rowing

Regina Kelso Bennett ’77, Rowing

Karen McKeon Boedeker ’76, Rowing

J. Bonifert ’74, Fencing

Ann Deighen Buckley ’78, Rowing

Catherine (Cathie) Comerford ’76, Rowing

Sue Smiggen Condit ’80, Sailing

Peg Crehan Cox ’78, Rowing

Lory Kerger Cox ’78, Sailing

Anne Mattimore Cronin ’76, Rowing

Betsy Dorzweiler Danza ’78, Skiing

D. Dressler-Parks ’79, Fencing

Nora Duffy ’79, Skiing

Lenore Bottino Everson ’76, Rowing

Georgette Carroll Fairchild ’78, Rowing

Margaret Noonan Ford ’80, Skiing

Michelle Thompson Fowler ’76, Rowing

Fidele Galey, Sailing

Susan "Brooks" Strassel Gilman ’78, Rowing

Maura Carroll Hancock ’74 Rowing, Skiing

Jennifer Kellow ’77, Rowing

Rosemary Gill Kenyon ’76, Rowing

Jay Kiley, Sailing

Sue Krakora ’76, Fencing

Charlotte ‘Shotsi’ Cain Lajoie ’76, Rowing

Ellen Walsh Lawrence ’76, Rowing

Debbie Valentino Leach ’78, Fencing

Margaret D'Aquila Mader ’79, Skiing

Mary Mannion ’75, Rowing

Christine Dziwura Martinez ’78, Fencing

Laurie McAllister ’78, Skiing

Kathy Farhart Miller ’76, Rowing

Barbara Riley Nikolychik ’76, Rowing

Sandy Parnell ’79, Skiing

Pat Farro Ptucha ’77, Sailing

Joan Richtsmeier ’77, Fencing

Anne Rockey ’79, Rowing

Judy Rupprucht, Sailing

Mary Ann Zdinak Ryan ’74, Sailing

Gail Schahade, Skiing

Janel Schliesmann ’76, Skiing

C. Schoendienst, Fencing

Erin Gallagher Schuetz ’79, Rowing

Michelle Trevino Shakour ’78, Rowing

Cathy Zablotny Shovan ’79, Rowing

Veronica Keefe Silverstein ’78, Rowing

Chris Simony ’79, Fencing

Barb Norcross Sitkin ’75, Rowing

Camille St. Hilaire Smith ’78, Rowing

Diane Johnson Speck ’75, Rowing

Martha Boyle Stevenson ’80, Sailing

Pam McGinley Sullivan ’77, Rowing

Judy Tempel ’79, Rowing

Nina Tressler, Rowing

Cathy Salvi Wifler ’78, Rowing

Lisa Winkelman, Rowing

Janet Longfellow Wolf ’76, Rowing

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