U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand talked about her experience as a student-athlete and how it shaped her into the woman she is today at the kickoff event on April 4 for Daemen College’s celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Week. A capacity crowd of Daemen student-athletes, faculty, staff, and other invited guests were in attendance at the opening event.
Gillibrand, who competed in both tennis and squash during her undergraduate days at Dartmouth College, touched on the lasting effect that both sports left on her, helping to build a competitive drive, first during her time as a lawyer, later as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and now as one of 20 women to hold office in the U.S. Senate. Her sports background is detailed in her 2014 book, “Off the Sidelines.”
“Senator Gillibrand is an incredible role model for today’s young women,” said Bridget Niland, Daemen’s director of athletics. “She exemplifies the intellect, tenaciousness and confidence that Daemen Athletics is hoping to foster in all of our student-athletes, and especially in the young women who compete on our teams.”
In addition to women in sports, Gillibrand addressed other important topics, including equal pay for equal work, paid family medical leave, and campus sexual assault prevention. Earlier this year, Daemen became the first private college in the country to officially endorse her bipartisan Campus Accountability & Safety Act.
Gillibrand summed up her address, which included a question-and-answer session, by saying, “Know your value and fight for it. Your advocacy can make a difference. Be a mentor for other women and help strengthen each other.”
Daemen’s campus celebration continued on April 8 with its “Women in Sports: Past, Present and Future” event that was headlined by speaker U.S. Olympian Elana Meyers Taylor.
A two-time Olympic bobsledding medalist, Meyers Taylor spoke about the impact that sports has had on her life. A graduate of George Washington University, she competed in softball for the Colonials before becoming an Olympic bobsledder. She won a bronze medal in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and added a silver medal in 2014.
Meyers Taylor challenged those in attendance by saying, “I wanted to create a legacy. What kind of legacy do you want to create? You have an opportunity – a unique opportunity – to make history. Being involved with sports means being a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Meghan Lipinoga, who completed her senior season for the Wildcats’ women’s soccer team last fall, spoke about beginning her collegiate career at Division I Canisius College, and then opting to transfer to Daemen as the college was transitioning to Division II.
“As I move forward, I take from my time at Daemen that every opportunity presented to me is a chance to experience something new,” said Lipinoga, who graduated last December with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in sport management. “My experiences at Daemen have prepared me for what is next, and that with a positive attitude a lot can be achieved.”
The event also included an award presentation to Mary Wilson, widow of former Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., in recognition of her vision to establish Western New York Girls in Sports. Founded in 2006 and now partnered with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, the annual Western New York Girls in Sports event exposes underprivileged youth in the Buffalo Niagara region to the positive impact that sports can play in their daily lives. Several Daemen female student-athletes volunteered at last year’s event.
The weeklong celebration concluded off-campus with Daemen female student-athletes joining the United Way’s Western New York Girls in Sports Service Day held April 9 at the University at Buffalo Alumni Arena.
Hosted by Daemen Athletics, the college’s National Girls and Women in Sports Week activities honored Daemen female student-athletes, women’s sports programs and women who have served as positive role models for female athletes.