40 years ago the United States enacted a law that paved the way for equal opportunities for both men and women. Thanks to title nine, female athletes at schools across the country can participate in just as many sports as men. At North Central College, students and staff celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day with their seventh annual luncheon.
“If you live as long as I have, you can remember an era where women’s athletics was an oxymoron,” said the North Central College President Hal Wilde. “The world has improved in some dramatic ways and the proof of the pudding is in this room.”
Students then honored Beverly Thornburg with the Cleo Tanner award. The award is named after the north central college’s first physical education director for woman and goes to an individual who made significant contributions to female athletics at the school. Thornburg first came to the institution in 1970, when there was only tennis available for women.
“Now you remember Martin Luther King – he said in 1963, ‘I have a dream,” Thornburg said. She added that when she came to the college, “I said, ‘I have a dream…’ One sport? Give me a break!”
So soon after, she started girls’ volleyball and basketball and began coaching softball. At the luncheon, athletes said they were inspired by the pioneer’s speech.
“All your effort you put into this, your time and everything you’ve done to make North Central College better for women and a better place in general for athletics,” said Mackenzie Wenger of the soccer team. “We can’t thank you enough.”
“It definitely put into perspective the great opportunities we have now and I think Bev was an amazing asset to the college,” said Mallory Carr, of the girl’s golf team. “She did the things we’re all striving to do now and she’s a great role model to us.”
Today, north central college staff, students, and alumni cheer on more than 215 female athletes among 11 different teams.
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