Sheryl Szady

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Szady was a leader on and off the court on the early women's varsity basketball team.

Throughout the history of the University of Michigan, students have often led the path of the University in various capacities. Sheryl Szady was one such young woman. In 1972 — the revolutionary year of Title IX legislation — Szady served as Co-President of the Michigan Sports Club Federation. (MCSF) Additionally, she starred as an athlete for club field hockey — while also serving as its student manager — and played center on the Michigan women’s club basketball team. Through each of these individual roles, she was at the forefront of the fight for varsity status for women’s teams and, with the help of other clubs’ student managers found herself speaking in front of the Board of Regents.  In response, University President Robben Flemming called together the Committee to Study Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CSIAW), for which she was appointed a committee member.[1] Ultimately, the committee recommended varsity status for women in 1973 and the varsity program was established in 1974 with six teams.[2]  As for Szady, she became the captain of the first varsity field hockey team and played center for the first varsity basketball team.[3]The women’s field hockey team that Szady fought ceaselessly to establish and to improve eventually brought home the first national title for a U-M women’s team in 2001.[4]

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1973 First Women's Varsity Field Hockey Team

Sheryl Szady (top row, second from the right)


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The first women's varsity field hockey team held a reunion in Ann Arbor in 2014 to remember their experience and to celebrate how far the women's athletic department has come.

Szady’s contributions to the University of Michigan and its women’s athletics program had only just begun.  She went on to earn three degrees from Michigan including a B.S. in Physical Education and Mathematics in 1974, an M.S. in Physical Education Administration and Biostatistics in 1975, and a Ph.D. in 1987 for which she wrote her dissertation on the history of the women’s athletic program. Twenty-seven years of her career were devoted to the University as well, including extensive work with alumni through the University of Michigan Office of Development.[5]   In 2016, she, along with several current varsity women’s cross country student-athletes, led the push to give all 896 ‘M’ Women the proper varsity letter jackets as men — originally denied to them from 1973 to 1991.[6]

[1] Action Request: Approval of Revisions to Bylaw Sec. 11.210, Board of Regents University of Michigan records 1817-2011, 1899-1989, Box 132, April 20, 1973 (Complete), University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[2] Chronology of Implementation, Title IX Chronology of Implementation 1979, Box 6, Women's Athletics Records, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[3] "Letterwinners M Club Sheryl Szady Profile,"

[4] "Our History Timeline,"

[5] AIR Institute Alumni Research: Methods and Applications (Faculty Section), Sheryl Szady Alumni Research AIR Institute Conference November 8-11, 1989, Sheryl Szady Papers, Box 1, University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library, Ann Arbor, MI.

[6] "Letter of the Law: How University of Michigan Women Got Their Varsity Jackets (a Few Decades Late),"