UC Davis will celebrate Women in Sports Day next week with Marya Welch’s name — and our volleyball team — front and center.
Welch founded women’s sports at UC Davis 25 years before the federal government’s Title IX mandated equal opportunity for women, and the university recently honored her legacy by establishing the Marya Welch Initiative for Women’s Athletics.
For Women in Sports Day, Tuesday, Oct. 17, the initiative is hosting an indoor tailgate event in The Pavilion at the ARC before the Aggie volleyball team takes on UC Santa Barbara. The pregame reception, open to the public, starts at 6 p.m. and the volleyball action (in the “Dig Pink” match for breast cancer research) at 7. Tickets — reduced in price to $5 — are available online.
Welch had a 40-year career at UC Davis, 1947-87, as a physical education instructor, coach and dean of women. Arriving on campus at a time when women comprised less than 10 percent of the student body, she was only the ninth female faculty member and the first in the P.E. department.
Welch organized all of the classes and taught many of them herself. She founded intramural and extramural sports programs for women, and established the Women’s Athletic Association.
She continued to live in Davis in retirement, and supported UC Davis on many fronts — including athletics — until her death in 2012. She was 95.
During her lifetime, the university honored her with the naming of the Marya Welch Tennis Center and Marya Welch Court, comprising four apartment buildings in the Colleges at La Rue student housing complex.
And now her name is on the Marya Welch Initiative, which seeks to raise funds for the university’s 14 NCAA women’s sports, increase the visibility of those sports and boost attendance at women’s contests
Initiative organizers have placed the first year’s fundraising emphasis on improvements to the La Rue Field softball complex. Read more about the initiative’s launch and the history of women’s athletics at UC Davis.
Gifts to the Marya Welch Initiative for Women’s Athletics can be made online. An anonymous source is matching gifts up to $1.5 million.