“If God is the center of your
life, no words are necessary.
Your mere presence will
touch hearts.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

 

Cheer Her Name: Sally Duffy among pioneers honored at University of Notre Dame

 

It was a moment 50 years in the making. On Oct. 22, 2022, fifty years after the inception of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the University of Notre Dame, its Athletics Department and the Notre Dame Monogram Club celebrated a group of women who paved the way for the success of the University’s women’s athletic program. Included among those women was Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, who coached the women’s basketball club team for two seasons (1975-’77).

S. Sally vividly remembers her beginnings at Notre Dame, which can be traced to God’s Providence. She was 25 years old and in her seventh year at Bishop Waterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, where she had started and was responsible for all aspects of the school’s women’s athletics program. S. Sally was looking to pursue a doctoral program in counseling/psychology and while on her way to interviews in the South Bend area, she made a stop at the University of Notre Dame to visit with an old friend, the academic dean of arts and letters at the university. What started out as a casual lunch between two friends quickly turned into something she could never have expected or planned for – an interview for the position of rector of Lewis Hall, the university’s largest residence hall. And, as God had planned it, the first person to interview her was Sister of Charity of Cincinnati John Miriam Jones, the highly esteemed administrator assigned the task of overseeing the university’s transition to coeducation.

A few days later S. Sally would receive a phone call from the assistant vice president of student affairs confirming that she was hired, and if that wasn’t enough to take in, it was his simple statement that followed that added to her surprise. “You didn’t tell me that you coach basketball,” he said. To which he proceeded to ask her to coach the women’s team. This was in April 1975; she started the role four months later in August.

“It was a dream come true. God is full of surprises,” S. Sally says with a smile. “‘The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing; we know this in countless ways,’ to quote Pascal. It’s not always the circumstances in life that we should use to make decisions but where our heart is tugging at us.”

She would hold the position for two years before making another major life decision – entering the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. As she looks back on her two years at Notre Dame, S. Sally sees the abundance. “It all depends on how you look at it,” she recalls. “We didn’t have a lot of the things that the men had but we had women who weren’t interested in being individuals. They were interested in team work and supporting each other. When we were going to games they often had their flashlights out studying in the van. We were counting the money to see if we had enough to stop at McDonald’s to get food, which was very different from our counterpart. … They were incredibly talented and gifted women. They had a passion for the game and for playing basketball. They made sacrifices but I don’t think they saw them as sacrifices as much as they were pioneering and trying to create the women’s athletic program at Notre Dame. It was a sisterhood; there were many life lessons learned. Life has bad calls but together in solidarity you go on.”

This past October S. Sally, along with members of her basketball team and more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive their much-deserved (and long overdue) honors. Founders of the Women’s Athletic Association and the women who competed for Notre Dame during the first five years of coeducation received their honorary monograms in a ceremony prior to the start of the Oct. 22 Irish football game. They were invited on the field for the singing of the national anthem and a select few (first coaches and co-captains), which included S. Sally, were called onto the field between the first and second quarters to represent the group. She describes being reunited with team members that weekend as an awesome experience. “To see them finally recognized publicly and to have that witnessed by their families was incredibly touching, fulfilling and meaningful. They had worked hard and had never been recognized,” she added with tears filling her eyes.

“You wonder what would have happened if there hadn’t been the 37 words of Title IX,” S. Sally continued. “It changed not only women’s athletics but also academics. I’m grateful that it was a Sister of Charity who was tasked with the responsibility of coeducation at Notre Dame and obviously fulfilled that. And I hope and pray that women’s sports will always be about the team and not the individual, about the sisterhood, the friendships, the mutuality, the solidarity and the affirmation.”

 

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

On Oct. 22, 2022, Sister of Charity of Cincinnati Sally Duffy, along with more than 200 other pioneers of Irish women’s athletics, returned to the campus to receive much-deserved honors for their contributions to the success of the University of Notre Dame’s women’s athletic program.

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