She became one of the nation’s winningest volleyball coaches during a 31-year coaching tenure at Eastern Kentucky University, where her teams fashioned a 627-439 record and captured nine conference championships and eight league tournament titles.
But Dr. Geri Polvino’s true legacy can’t be found in the pages of a record book or reflected in all the shiny hardware that graces EKU trophy cases.
It’s in the legacy of changed lives – and it only starts with Polvino’s former players and students.
The Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame member was honored on Nov. 12 at a National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Lexington for her “exceptional” philanthropic efforts, as reflected through her gifts, and her “generosity of spirit and time.”
Polvino, EKU’s first volleyball coach, retired in 1997, but has remained actively involved with Eastern as well as other local institutions of higher education. Her giving totals well over $2 million. Her support to EKU has taken many forms, most notably:
· The Russell T. and Josephine B. Polvino Endowed Women’s Volleyball and Softball Fund.
· The Dr. Geri Polvino Women and Gender Studies Endowed Fund that supports Eastern’s multidisciplinary program and reflects her lifelong commitment to equity and justice for all women.
· The Mary Lotta Family Endowed Fund that supports Eastern’s NOVA program, providing academic and social services to help students complete their degrees.
“Institutions of higher education depend heavily on the philanthropic hearts of their alumni and friends, so we are delighted to see Dr. Polvino acknowledged by the AFP,” EKU President Michael Benson said. “Dr. Polvino has led the way by providing support in both athletic and academic areas. She has led the way by giving of both treasure and time. We are grateful for her ongoing support.”
Polvino’s coaching acumen made her one of the most respected authorities in the sport worldwide and the first certified female instructor in the International Volleyball Federation. She was a highly sought clinic instructor, both in the U.S. and abroad, and taught the game in such diverse nations as Japan, Malaysia, Germany and Jamaica. She served 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.
In the late 1980s, she helped to pioneer the National Invitational Volleyball Championships, which opened post-season play to teams not fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament field, thereby giving thousands of student-athletes even more opportunities to compete and make lasting memories. She also served as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport’s Coaches Academy and chaired the CWS Volleyball Rules Committee.
The 1991 EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni inductee – she earned her master’s degree at Eastern – became the first volleyball coach to be inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame when she was enshrined in 2005.