Opportunity to Honor Women Who Shaped Lives

IMG_1387_copyThe worst part about living abroad is that I can never be two places at once. Due to the logistics of a 7-hour time difference and 4000 miles distance, I grieved alone the passing of my grandparents and celebrated solo the accolades that mean little to folks here in Europe. Of course, I know better than most that all of the hardware in the world can’t help you get up and walk again, but after growing up in the shadows, it is humbling to be in the limelight.

I wasn’t there for my induction into the Illinois State University Hall of Fame in 1984 for basketball because I was living in Paris at the time, still recovering from a car accident and caring for a new baby. Nor was I stateside for my induction into the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame in 2005. But my favorite all time coach, my dad, stepped in for me.

I wasn’t back on campus to receive the highly coveted “I” letter for participating in varsity sports. Prior to 1989, female athletes were not awarded Varsity Letters at ISU. Legendary basketball coach, Jill Hutchison, women’s advocate extraordinaire, righted that wrong. She initiated the Letterwinners’ Recognition Banquet February 8, 2003 to honor female athletes who in early and pre Title IX years never received that honor. Though I wasn’t physically present, my words – a column I wrote about the event -circulated to all the alumni. At the time, I was in my own gym at the International School of Geneva coaching my daughter’s team to their 5th consecutive European International Schools Sport championship.

A part of me feels undeserving of the honor to speak for my generation at an NCAA Final Four. Why me? For years, I stuffed down the ridicule, the snide remarks, the insults and kept dreaming. That little girl scorned is afraid to stand tall and shine. Yet, I will rise to the occasion.IMG_0767_copy

Because ultimately, I wrote Home Sweet Hardwood, not for my own bragging rights, but to pay tribute to the silent generation of women who fought so hard for the privileges we are have today.

Countless times when my spirit was broken, when I felt like giving up, when my legs no longer held me upright, my sisters lifted me to battle on and off the court. If I am triumphant today, it is because of the efforts of the mothers and grandmothers of yesterday. If my daughter rises in glory tomorrow, it will be due to the generations of women who have risen before her in pursuit of their dreams.

Historically, women have taken a back seat. Yet, it is women who have worked so hard behind the scenes to help us reach our goals, beginning with the mothers who believed in us from the day we were born. Pause and pay tribute to the women who guided you. Repeat their names out loud. Make a call, write a letter, send a prayer. Then continue doing what we do best, extending a helping hand, supporting one another, passing it on, and paying it forward.

When I step up to the podium at UWSP, I will speak in the “mother tongue” of our ancestors, representing those who came before us, honoring those who sacrificed in the past to create the opportunities we enjoy today.

Coach Hutchinson, coach Egner & Nat_copy

Jill Hutchison, Shirley Egner, Nathalie Lechault
3 generations of fighting women

Thank you: Sue Westphal, Karen Carlson, Betty McKinzie, Martha Olson, Lenore McKinzie, Jill Hutchison, Linda Herman, Shirley Egner, Nancy Lo Patin, Pat Summitt, Vivian Stringer, Kay Yow…

 

 

 

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Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, sport.

22 Comments

  1. You have such a strong and joyful spirit, Pat, and I’m so glad it’s being recognized! You truly were a trailblazer – so hard working, talented, and committed! Back when Cleveland still had its women’s team, the Cleveland Rockers, I took my little girl to many of their basketball games. I wanted her to see what women could accomplish. She learned the players’ names and had their poster on her door. We always cheered until we were hoarse. I told her about you and remember sitting there with tears in my eyes and chills – I was so proud of how far we all had come. YOU had a direct impact in making that happen. BIG HUGS, old friend! Congratulations!

    • Thanks, Mary, I appreciate you taking time to comment and reach out after all these years. It warms my heart to imagine you taking your daughter to a Cleveland Rockers game and buying those posters of female basketball players to stick on her the doorway of her childhood. We certainly never imagined back then that one day girls would be celebrated for their athleticism. You are right, Mary, WE have so much to be proud and whatever my contribution has been, it would not have been possible without out the support of ALL of my sisters. Hugs right back at ya, dear friend.

  2. Pat, what an honor and highlight of your life to be standing up at that podium paying tribute to the women who shaped you and the legacy you helped create. And now you have HOME SWEET HARDWOOD to keep your voice alive for future generations. I wish I could be there. I hope you will post a video of your speech.

    • Yes, Kathy, I am honored and humbled to be representing the voice of the past speaking to the future. I am also in awe of the strength and determination of our daughters to pursue their own dreams. You are with me, dear friend, and have been beside me every step of the way as we share our memoir writer’s journey.

  3. Pat, what an honor and highlight of your life to be standing up at that podium paying tribute to the women who shaped you and the legacy you helped create. And now you have HOME SWEET HARDWOOD to keep your voice alive for future generations. I wish I could be there. I hope you will post a video of your speech.

    • Yes, Kathy, I am honored and humbled to be representing the voice of the past speaking to the future. I am also in awe of the strength and determination of our daughters to pursue their own dreams. You are with me, dear friend, and have been beside me every step of the way as we share our memoir writer’s journey.

  4. So proud of you, Pat, for your courage and fighting spirit in blazing the trail for others and then for sharing your amazing story. And so grateful for the women in my life who have helped inspire me and guide me on my own journey. You are right, the best way to pay tribute to them is to pay it forward.

  5. Pat, I think you’re an excellent choice to speak — you’re passionate, and you’ve walked the walk! You know what it means to be denied your heart’s dream, and you know how incredible it is when at least a part of that dream finally comes true. So go out there and do your stuff!!

    • Thanks, Debbie, I appreciate your support. Though I am a bit uncomfortable in the role, I’ll do my best to strut my stuff on behalf of all of us.

  6. Pat, I think you’re an excellent choice to speak — you’re passionate, and you’ve walked the walk! You know what it means to be denied your heart’s dream, and you know how incredible it is when at least a part of that dream finally comes true. So go out there and do your stuff!!

    • Thanks, Debbie, I appreciate your support. Though I am a bit uncomfortable in the role, I’ll do my best to strut my stuff on behalf of all of us.

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