As Lehigh University celebrated 40 years of coeducation this past year and an outstanding year of success in collegiate athletics, the nation is celebrating four decades since the enactment of the Title IX amendment.
This is a fitting celebration to mark at Lehigh, where women’s athletic programs have been very strong. The 1992 women’s cross country team holds the honor of being the university’s first Patriot League championship team, and the softball team has won the most Patriot League championships in the university’s history.
Now, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast has been recognized as one of 40 highly accomplished women who made a significant impact on society after playing sports in high school or college during the 40 years since the enactment of Title IX in 1972.
The 40 FOR 40 list—released by the Women’s Sports Foundation, in collaboration with espnW and Women in Cable Telecommunications—celebrates honorees in a wide range of fields, including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Sports, Business, Medicine, Law, Arts and Entertainment, and others.
Gast competed on relays, the long jump and 440 for an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, the Long Beach Comets, while in junior and high school in southern California. The 40 FOR 40 list honors her for her role in Academia and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Among the other honorees are actress and author Tina Fey (Arts and Entertainment); U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. (Government/Civil Service); DuPont chair and CEO Ellen Kullman, who delivered the 2011 commencement address at Lehigh University (Business and STEM); actress and recording artist Queen Latifah (Arts and Entertainment); former U.S. Secretary of State and Stanford political science professor Condoleezza Rice (Government/Civil Service and Academia); Sally Ride, who was the first female astronaut (STEM); and tennis star Venus Williams (Sports).
“Title IX has opened the door for generations of young women to excel in athletics as well as in the classroom, building character, confidence and poise while learning vital lessons about the importance of teamwork and dedication to accomplishing a goal,” Gast says. “I am grateful for the opportunities this landmark legislation has provided to young women at Lehigh and beyond and I am honored to be included in the company of such esteemed women.”
Increased athletic and educational opportuniies
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires schools and colleges receiving federal money in any education program or activity to provide the same opportunities for girls as they provide for boys. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, which was founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, Title IX has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of girls participating in high school sports—from 1 in 27 in 1972 to about 2 in 5 today.
Title IX has made its impact felt in terms of athletic participation as well as in educational opportunities for girls and women. According to several studies, the combination of the two has produced significant long-term educational, health and economic benefits for women.
"The timing and influence of Title IX is remarkably aligned with the history of women and women's athletics at Lehigh,” Gast says. “This year, we celebrated our 40th year of enrolling women as undergraduates and we continue to celebrate the scholarship, leadership and service of women on this campus and among our alumni community. In Athletics, we have seen the number of our varsity women's sports teams grow from three to 12, and athletics participation opportunities exceed the expanding numbers of women undergraduates on a proportional basis."
Gast, an internationally renowned scholar, researcher and academic leader, was appointed the 13th president of Lehigh University in 2006. Prior to her appointment at Lehigh, she served as the vice president for research and associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held the Robert T. Haslam chair in chemical engineering. She previously spent 16 years as a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory.
For more information and the full list of women named to the 40 FOR 40 list, visit the Women’s Sports Foundation website.