Wellesley Celebrates NCAA Division III Week and the Impact of Athletes

Wellesley Celebrates NCAA Division III Week and the Impact of Athletes
Photo provided by Wellesley Blue softball; Robert Oliver Photography
April 6, 2017

Wellesley joins more than 400 institutions around the country in celebrating NCAA Division III Week, April 3 through 9. The annual event highlights the impact of athletics and student-athletes on their campuses and surrounding communities.

At Wellesley, Division III Week began with a visit from Louise McCleary ’87, who played volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse at the College and has served as director of Division III at the NCAA national office since 2012. She spoke to an audience of student-athletes, coaches, and administrators about current and future trends in the NCAA. She also met with President Paula A. Johnson; Bridget Belgiovine, Wellesley’s director of athletics; and Patrick Summers, executive director of the New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference, to discuss the NCAA’s Chancellors and Presidents Engagement Program, which gives college and university leaders information about NCAA policies and offers resources to help ensure the success of student-athletes both on and off the field.

On April 5, Wellesley Athletics hosted its third #EarnTheW event, which promotes support of Blue teams with fun activities and giveaways. Students who attended Wellesley lacrosse, softball, or tennis games that afternoon received an #EarnTheW T-shirt. The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee promoted the event, and the Wellesley Widows a cappella group sang the national anthem at the lacrosse game.

“This week we hope to highlight what the Division III experience can offer and the accomplishments, leadership, and community involvement of our student-athletes,” said Miles Roberts, Wellesley’s director of sports information. “Most of all, we want to share the stories of our student-athletes and how their DIII athletic experience has empowered them in various areas of life.”

Every day this week, Wellesley Athletics will feature an interview with a different student-athlete, current or former, on the Blue’s web pages, wellesleyblue.com. The first one, on Tuesday, featured Zsofia Schweger ’12, a former member of the fencing team who was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe list in the arts category. Schweger said her athletic experience taught her how to work well with a team and coaches toward shared goals and how to balance many commitments. “I think these are [lessons] that could be applied to careers in most industries, including the arts,” she said.

Carina Chen ’17, a co-captain of the Blue tennis team whose interview will appear on the site this Friday, echoed those comments: “As a student-athlete at Wellesley, you gain a wealth of lifelong skills. On the tennis court, you learn perseverance, mental toughness, and physical endurance. While off the court, you learn time management skills, prioritization, and the basics of responsibility.”

The impact of Wellesley Athletics extends far beyond the work world, however, as the Blue’s softball team has learned since partnering with Team IMPACT, a nonprofit that strives to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening or chronic illnesses. In 2014, the team drafted 7-year-old Maeve Flack of Needham, Mass., who has a form of cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair or power-stander to move around. She attends team practices and alumnae games, and has formed a strong bond with players, who have gone with her to physical therapy sessions, movies, and even trick-or-treating.

That bond led team members to think about how they could help other kids like Maeve, who is nonverbal and communicates using an echo-speaking computer that she can control with her eyes. 

The computer’s robotic-sounding voice never seemed quite right for Maeve, so Maeve’s older sister, Erin, contacted VocaliD, a company that uses proprietary voice blending technology to create “voice personas” for text-to-speech devices. Ten months later, Maeve had a new voice, and the Blue softball team decided to help VocaliD by holding the College’s first “voice drive” this past February.

Thirty-seven people signed up to create voice donor accounts, and five have since completed a vocal donation, which requires each donor to record 3,500 sentences, and takes five to seven hours.

“I know the whole family has been extremely excited about Maeve receiving her voice, and are excited about VocaliD in general,” said pitcher Sydney Hopper ’19. “As a team, we hope to help as many recipients as we can!”