More than 150 people were in attendance for Eastern Kentucky University’s inaugural Championing Women’s Athletics Luncheon on Tuesday inside Alumni Coliseum.
The first of its kind, the luncheon highlighted the successes and the progress of women’s athletics both at EKU and as a whole. In addition, two of EKU athletics’ most influential women, Dr. Martha Mullins and Dr. Geri Polvino, were presented awards from President Michael Benson and Director of Athletics Steve Lochmueller.
A panel discussion including five females was also held in order to help raise awareness of the growth in women’s athletics and to discuss the challenges and successes of current and former student-athletes. The panelists included 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.
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.
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.