Professor Marya Welch, retired from the physical education department, received a prolonged ovation from the convocation audience after she told about her role in giving to women "the same thing that men wanted at UC Davis — athletic programs that would challenge and interest them."
Welch came to UC Davis in 1947 as the first female faculty member in PE and only the ninth female faculty member on campus. She wondered out loud that she might be the only one still alive.
When she arrived at UC Davis, enrollment was about 1,200, the vast majority men, including many just home from World War II.
There were about 100 female students, Welch said. "Women's athletics was a blank slate. … Sixty years ago, at UC Davis and in the rest of the country, there was a culture of exclusion of women in sports."
She spoke of fighting against many obstacles, and expressed pride in what has been accomplished for women athletes.
"I love teaching and coaching, too," she said. "I hope I have passed along my philosophy to the many young women I taught in my time at UC Davis. It is the way I live my life today.
"I believe that sport is really about the way you live: Be well-prepared, be fair, respect your competition, and measure your success by goals you set for yourself, not whether you win or lose."