Two of the most accomplished coaches and administrators in the rich history of Eastern Kentucky University athletics will be recognized when the University hosts an inaugural “Championing Women in Athletics” luncheon on Tuesday, March 22.
The event, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in McBrayer Arena (registration at 11 a.m.), will recognize Dr. Martha Mullins and Dr. Geri Polvino for their “exceptional contributions and dedicated service to women’s athletics” at EKU and include an all-female panel discussion featuring current and former student-athletes, current coach, supporter and faculty member. Tickets are $25 and should be purchased online at http://goo.gl/6EiKpD by Friday, March 18. For more information, call 859-622-2046.
“It’s important for us to give special attention to those student-athletes who make up our women’s teams and thank all those who support our student-athletes,” said Matt Roan, EKU deputy director of athletics, citing a support team of administrators, coaches, donors and fans. “The history of athletic success at EKU would not have been possible without the success of our women’s teams.”
Roan said Mullins and Polvino are “icons” who have made tremendous contributions not only to the success of women’s athletics but “athletics in general” at EKU.
He added that the panel discussion will raise awareness of the “growth of women’s athletics and the opportunities and issues they face.”
Mullins was head women’s tennis coach from 1969 to 1983 and served as an athletics administrator from 1975 to 1996, first as assistant athletics director and then as associate athletics director. “For many of our fans, their favorite sport is one of our women’s sports.”
Her many honors speak to her reputation among her peers. In 1984, Mullins was selected for the Kentucky Women’s Intercollegiate Conference Honor Award for outstanding service to women’s intercollegiate athletics in Kentucky. In 1992, she was recognized by the Kentucky Department of Education for her contributions to women’s sports and selected by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators as her district’s Administrator of the Year. The Lexington-based Women in Sports Foundation presented Mullins its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. Also a member of the EKU Athletics Hall of Fame, Mullins was inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame in 2013.
As EKU’s first volleyball coach from 1966 to 1997, Polvino led her teams to a 627-439 record, including nine Ohio Valley Conference championships and eight league tournament titles. She remains one of the nation’s all-time winningest volleyball coaches. Polvino became one of the most respected authorities in the sport worldwide and the first certified female instructor in the International Volleyball Federation, serving three years as campus director of the Federation’s International Coaches Course, which attracted more than 200 coaches from around the world to the EKU campus. She helped to pioneer the National Invitational Volleyball Championships, served as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport’s Coaches Academy and chaired the CWS Volleyball Rules Committee.
Polvino was honored in November 2015 at a National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Lexington for her “exceptional” philanthropic efforts. She has remained actively involved with Eastern as well as other local institutions of higher education, and her support of EKU has taken many forms. Polvino, a member of EKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni and Athletics Hall of Fame, joined the OVC Hall of Fame in 2005.
The panelists are Maribeth McBride Berman, vice chair of the EKU Foundation Board, alumna and long-time fan; Dr. Laurie Carter, executive vice president and University counsel, EKU, and former student-athlete; Lori Duncan, EKU volleyball coach; Dr. Sheila Pressley, faculty athletics representative; and Rachel Welker, student-athlete, EKU women’s golf.
Duncan, who played volleyball at EKU under Polvino, said women’s athletics gives its participants “the self-confidence to step into that next chapter of their lives. I had an exceptional experience at EKU, and that’s what I’m trying to create for future generations.”
In fact, Duncan pursued coaching as a profession because of the example of Polvino, who “taught us the value of hard work, teamwork, loyalty, integrity and discipline. Helping our players excel academically and athletically is imperative, but coaches have a responsibility to influence and further develop the character of their student-athletes. Therefore, our players’ overall success as people is the way I will ultimately judge the success of our program.”
Kristi Middleton, chief external affairs officer for EKU, will serve as emcee; EKU Director of Athletics Steve Lochmueller will bring opening remarks; and President Michael Benson will present Mullins and Polvino.