The University of North Carolina is doubling down on its commitment to excellence in women's athletics after the Rams Club and the UNC athletic department announced a new initiative over the weekend.
The FORevHER Tar Heels campaign will look to raise $100 million toward the funding of all 15 varsity women’s programs, with an emphasis on three central areas of need: scholarships, facilities and career mentor programs.
Calls for an increase in financial support for these varsity programs have been amplified by the success of Tar Heel female athletes across the board. Women’s athletics have produced 35 national championship titles and 31 individual national championships all-time, as well as four active Hall of Fame coaches.
At Saturday’s event, a number of coaches, players and alumni gathered at the Carolina Club to discuss the role that women’s athletics has played in building a winning culture at UNC.
Sue Walsh, the associate executive director of the Rams Club, kicked off the event by demonstrating the power that UNC athletics has given women in the workforce and explaining the purpose of the initiative.
“We have one that’s a neurosurgeon, one that was a pilot in the Navy, we have teachers, coaches, athletic administrators, authors, TV show hosts and sideline reporters.” Walsh said. “The mission of ForevHer Tar Heels is to build and inspire a Carolina community that champions and empowers our women student athletes.
"The lessons that these ladies are learning while they are here impact them long after they leave Chapel Hill. We want to arm them with new tools, through this initiative, so that they can continue to grow professionally as well as personally.”
After Walsh presented the central tenets of the initiative, a panel of distinguished women took to the stage to discuss how UNC athletics positively affected their lives. The panel consisted of Molly Sullivan, class of ‘02, Karen Shelton, field hockey head coach, Meghan Lyons ‘13, Tiffany D. Tucker ‘05, Kristine Lilly ‘93 and Vanessa Wittman ‘89.
Lyons, a former field hockey player under Shelton who then went on to work at Google, praised UNC’s rare combination of athletics and academics.
“I knew that this is where I was supposed to be,” Lyons said. “This is a place where you can compete for national championships year after year and get a top notch education. There are so many unbelievable student athlete graduates from North Carolina … and one of the things I’d like to see from this campaign moving forward is connecting these amazing women and providing more opportunities for our student athletes.”
Tucker, a former basketball player, explained what being a Tar Heel meant to her.
“Playing at Carolina is the secret sauce,” Tucker said. “We can all cook a dish and it's all going to taste different, but mine’s going to taste even better because I have the secret sauce.”
This proverbial “secret sauce” may have been best explained by Sullivan, a former long-distance swimmer who is now a team reporter for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It's all about having a plan for when the spotlight turns off,” Sullivan said. “The beauty of Carolina is that we always have a plan.”