By John Garvey, President
The Catholic University of America Magazine, Spring 2013

Last year was the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Our students are too young to remember when it passed, though some of our alumni might. It was created to prevent discrimination or exclusion from educational programs and activities on the basis of sex. The most visible impact was on women’s sports. 

The anniversary of Title IX has personal relevance for me. Playing sports was a boon for our daughters and daughters-in-law. Two of our girls, Becky and Katie, played soccer in high school. Our youngest, Clare, swam. Katie Elizabeth (our daughter-in-law) has run the Boston Marathon a few times; Shannon (our other daughter-in-law) swam for Notre Dame. Playing a sport helped them to strike a healthy balance between work and recre-ation in high school and college. It built their confidence. Being an athlete made them more independent and simultaneously, more team oriented. They became strong, goal-driven women. 

More important than that, playing sports helped them to cultivate virtues. Being a part of a team and having to get along with the other girls made them more charitable. Losing taught them to be humble; winning taught them to be magnanimous. They learned patience as they struggled to set a new personal record or develop a new skill. They acquired perseverance when they had to get through a bad season. On and off the field, they learned to use their time prudently to balance their academic and athletic commitments. 

As a dad one of the things I appreciated was that sports helped keep our girls more wholesome. They developed confidence around men. They built real friendships with other girls. That helped when they had to navigate the social complexities that come with being a teenager. They developed healthy body images rooted in admiration for the Williams sisters or Mia Hamm, rather than Kate Moss or Christy Turlington. 

Our girls are all out of college now. But they carried the lessons they learned on the field into the workplace and into their lives as moms and wives. I think they are stronger and better for having played sports. The same can be said of our women athletes at Catholic University. They come to us as remarkable young women already, determined to juggle a sport and a rigorous academic schedule (many of our women athletes wind up in our toughest majors). Playing a sport in college requires exceptional dedication and diligence, and our female athletes rise to the occasion. 

From our end, building a good athletics program for both women and men has the tremendous benefit of helping us to attract and retain good students. We aren’t trying to be the next Alabama or USC — at those schools being an athlete is a full-time job. Our student-athletes come here because they want a balance between academics and athletics. They are successful in the classroom. The average GPAs for our athletes are above the University average. They are also successful on the field. Our women’s lacrosse team has won the last five Landmark Conference championships; field hockey and basketball have won the last two.

But what I like best is that athletics contributes to the overall happiness of our women student-athletes. It is a happiness I saw in our girls, too. I’m glad Title IX helped make that possible for all of them.