Tech Athletics celebrates Title IX’s 50th year

Photo courtesy of news.gatech.edu

The Tech Athletics Department had a full schedule this past weekend. While the football team played their first home game of the season and the volleyball team hosted the Georgia Tech Classic, arguably the most important event was happening at the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons on Friday night, Sept. 9. The Institute hosted a reception for the 50th anniversary of Title IX, followed by a discussion panel with women either formerly or currently involved in Tech athletics. 

Title IX prevents educational institutions with federal funding from discriminating against anyone on the basis of sex. As one of the Education Amendments, Title IX was passed in June 1972 and the effects were soon felt across the country, specifically in women’s college athletics. The 50th anniversary of Title IX was in June 2022, but the Athletics Department wanted to wait until female athletes were back on campus and in season before having the celebration. 

On Sept. 9,  Tech Athletics, the Tech Library and Adidas hosted their very own celebration. The event was open to faculty, staff, students, athletes and the general public. There was a great turnout at the event from all groups invited. The reception, held from 5-6 p.m., saw female and male athletes, coaches, professors, students and professionals. The panel, which started at 6 p.m., hosted a wide variety of women from Tech Athletics. 

The panelists included Dianna Shelander, the first female letter winner at Tech who swam on the men’s swimming and diving team, Bernadette McGlade, the first full-time female coach (women’s basketball) at Tech who later went on to become an associate athletics director, Kristi Miller-North, a member of the women’s tennis team who won the 2007 NCAA Championship and became the first NCAA Champion at Tech, Aileen Morales, a former Tech softball player who now serves as the head coach of Tech softball, Monique Mead, a former four-time All-American volleyball player at Tech who led the team to a 2009 NCAA Tournament appearance, and Chaunté Lowe, a track and field athlete who was a six-time All American, three-time NCAA Champion and four-time Olympian. Lowe could not attend the event because of unforeseen circumstances. Jenny Lentz Moore served as the moderator for the event. She was a track and field athlete and was on the inaugural women’s swimming and diving team during her time at Tech. 

The panel started with a couple of ice-breaker questions to warm up the panelists. They were asked what their favorite place on campus was during their time here and what they do now. The women seemed to come to a consensus about the answer to the former question: the locker room or field for their respective sport. 

The latter had a diverse range of answers, as each of the panelists have taken different career paths after their time at the Institute. Shelander had a 37-year career as a geophysicist. McGlade has served as the Atlantic 10 Commissioner since 2008. Miller-North and Mead are both attorneys. Miller-North is the manager of legal services at Northside Hospital, and Mead practices on the trademark and copyright team at Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton LLP. Morales has served as the head coach of Yellow Jacket softball since 2017. Lowe travels as an inspirational speaker. Lentz Moore is the first woman to be a trained F-35 civilian instructor pilot, and she works for Lockheed Martin in F-35 Training and Operations. 

Each panelist was asked different questions about their time as athletes, coaches and their experiences in the Athletics Department at Tech. Their responses reveal the influence of Title IX and how critical it was for women’s rights and athletics. 

The first question went to Morales, who was asked, “How has Title IX impacted softball?” 

Morales went on to describe the different conditions of the facilities from the time she was an athlete and again when she was a coach. She described her gameday experience as an athlete as having to walk to McCamish Pavilion to get to the locker room and then hoping a teammate with a car would drive her to the field, but if they did not pick her up, she ran to the softball field on 14th Street because, “you couldn’t be late.”

She expressed her joy that her athletes have state of the art facilities and Shirley Clements Mewborn Field to play on today. Additionally, Morales explained that the bonds between the athletes is what really makes it worth it. 

Morales spoke about her philosophy on coaching female athletes, saying, “The players that come into my program, I want them to leave more confident, maybe a little more trusting in themselves, and my hope is that once they step out into the real world and they are in corporate America or whatever that job is or whatever they choose for their lives they can stand on their own two feet.” 

Shelander was asked about her time as an athlete participating on the men’s swimming and diving team. She mentioned that her older brother was the captain of the team and he told her she should just talk to the coach and see what she could do, so she did. Shelander said the coaches did not really mention anything other than her being the first woman on the team and to show up to practice the next day. Shelander told a story about one of her diving opponents, saying, “One time this guy was upset I won. He said, ‘It’s just not fair that I have to dive against a girl!’”

Miller-North acquired a multitude of awards, medals and honors during her time at Tech. She has one award that gets overshadowed by her athletic career — she was a three-time Academic All-American. She was asked how she managed that and where her mentality came from. Miller-North said that she has always “been a bit of a perfectionist,” but the way she was raised also contributed to her great achievements. 

She said her parents always supported her in anything she tried and made sure that she had everything she needed in order to succeed, but they also told her to, “put academics first because … anything can happen. You can get injured at any age, … you can’t just put all your eggs in one basket.” Miller-North included that she has always pushed herself and being around the right coaches that bought into her personality and highlighted her strengths certainly helped. 

Mead was the youngest of the bunch and being an athlete certainly helped her along her journey to her professional career. She explained that she was certain she would be finished with volleyball once she graduated, but her coach told her to aim higher and she ended up playing in Puerto Rico after graduation. However, Mead said she had an identity crisis once she was finished with volleyball, because she had done the same singular thing for so long she was not sure how to move forward. Mead told the story of how she reached out to her contacts at Tech so they could help guide her into a career path. 

“I reached out and ended up getting a job at a collegiate licensing company which got me interested in IP and it was just kind of a snowball effect,” Mead said. “Then my brother-in-law, he played football here, he went to law school and I was like ‘I don’t know what I want to do’ and he was like, ‘You like to read, just go to law school.’” 

Mead eventually did go to law school, and she said it was really great how many people from Tech supported her and helped her along the way. 

Lentz Moore was asked a couple of questions at the conclusion of the panel. She said that she wanted to be a fighter pilot for most of her life, but women were not able to fly in combat until she was in middle school. She expressed that being a collegiate athlete taught her many critical skills that she later applied in the military and in life. 

“I’ll never know if I would have made it through flight school, would’ve made it through my military training, would’ve made it through combat operations, without having been an athlete in college and having those experiences,” Moore said. 

One notable response of the night came in the form of a story from McGlade. When she first came to Tech, she was hired the same week as men’s basketball coach, Bobby Cremins. She was barred entrance from the locker rooms one time, with an assistant telling her it was the men’s locker room and the women’s one was accessible via a walk outside. She asked for a door to be added from the women’s locker room into the stadium, but the Institute declined to do so. Faced later with a decision between taking a recruit into a rainstorm or showing her the men’s locker room, she chose the latter, leading to an awkward situation where they encountered the men’s assistant coaches just after a workout. According to McGlade, “The next day I just went home I said, ‘I’m sure I’m fired. There was no guaranteed contract but I’m sure I’m fired.’ So the next morning I go into the office about 8 o’clock and I hear all this noise, they were jackhammering the brick walls to make an entrance to the women’s locker room.” 

The Title IX event was a hit for all generations of women in athletics at the Institute. The 50th anniversary of Title IX is an event for all women to celebrate. Title IX gives women equality not only in athletics, but also in life. Each panelist could recall the positive effect that college athletics had on their life, whether it was by way of job, competition, life skills or connections. Title IX has forever altered the number of women who get a chance to pursue their dreams.