University of Miami hosts third annual Celebration of Women’s Athletics

Women's basketball Head Coach Katie Meier is pictured at the BankUnited Center. This season came to a close Saturday night with a 74-71 loss to South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. File Photo

Sunday featured the third annual Celebration of Women’s Athletics at the Watsco Center Fieldhouse. Former President Donna Shalala, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Coach Jill Ellis, and Miami Coaches Mark Richt and Jim Larrañaga were among over 300 guests in attendance at the sold-out event.

The event stressed the importance of supporting female student-athletes athletically, academically and once they graduate to embark on new endeavors outside of the University of Miami. All proceeds went toward the Edna C. Shalala Fund for Women’s Athletics to continue this mission.

UM women’s basketball color-analyst Megan Perry emceed the event. Senior Gracie Lachowecki, one of the most decorated soccer stars in school history, addressed the crowd as a student speaker. Other speakers included President Julio Frenk, Deputy Director of Athletics Jennifer Strawley, and women’s basketball head coach and upcoming UM Sports Hall of Fame inductee Katie Meier.

In her passionate speech, Meier stressed that there are many people investing in her team and women’s athletics, and they are transforming lives, but that the student-athletes have to “know that they are not only blessed, they are tasked to be returns on our investment in them.”

“We’re committed to transforming their lives, but they’ve gotta go out and transform others,” Meier continued. “When they leave this place, that’s what we’re all here for. They are going to go out there. They will change the world.”

The keynote speaker was Tamara James, who is the Miami women’s basketball all-time leading scorer and a 2016 UM Sports Hall of Fame inductee. James is currently mayor of her hometown, Dania Beach.

“It doesn’t matter what sport we play – athletics prepare you for life,” James told the crowd. “Things that you don’t think you’re qualified in – [athletics] will qualify you for those things.”

Eleven female student-athletes were honored at the event, including junior track-and-field star Ebony Morrison.

“I’m very honored,” Morrison said of her experience at the event.

She was also amazed that hundreds came to the luncheon.

“You hear so much about how men are doing so well in football and basketball, but it was amazing to see how many people were here to actually support women’s athletics,” she said.

Other female student-athlete honorees included women’s basketball senior captain Adrienne Motley, volleyball standout Olga Strantzali and decorated sprinter Shakima Wimbley.

“I love everything about being a student-athlete here, but most importantly, the support I get from the academic side,” Wimbley said.

One of her academic supporters is Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood, who is the chair and associate professor in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies. Kohn-Wood is impressed with student-athletes like Wimbley in her class who are able to excel in the classroom and in their respective sports.

“Women’s athletics is amazing, but what’s even more amazing is the fact that these women work so hard because I see how they have to balance more than a full-time job with more than a full-time academic load,” Kohn-Wood said. “I’m just glad to be here to support everyone.”

The 2017 Celebration of Women’s Athletics raised over $300,000.

To donate to the Edna C. Shalala Fund for Women’s Athletics, click here.