Women's Lacrosse Receives $1 Million Endowment

Joelle Hartke carrying the ball. Photo by Greg Carroccio.
Joelle Hartke carrying the ball in a recent game. Photo by Greg Carroccio.

A $1 million commitment from Mary Semanik, who served as director of women's athletics at Drexel University from 1965 to 1991, will endow the first named coaching position of a women’s team at the University, as well as provide unrestricted support to Drexel Athletics.

Hannah Rudloff, MS ’13, was recently appointed as the Mary Semanik Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. A member of the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s lacrosse team from 2006 to 2009, Rudloff served as the Dragons' assistant coach for three years before becoming head coach in August 2013.

“Drexel University's women's lacrosse team is poised to become a top-30 program,” said Eric Zillmer, director of athletics and Carl R. Pacifico Professor of Neuropsychology at Drexel. “This endowed head coaching position confers not only prestige to the head coach herself but also valuable and lasting resources that allow her to further strengthen the program for generations of student-athletes.”

Retired Drexel Director opt Women's Athletics Mary Semanik

It was under the leadership of Semanik and her husband, John Semanik ’56, who served as director of athletics from 1962 to 1991, that Division I sports first came to Drexel. The Semaniks also played a key role in the development of the University’s Physical Education Athletic Center — now known as the Daskalakis Athletic Center. In addition, Mary Semanik guided the women’s athletic program through the changes brought about by Title IX legislation, first enacted in 1972, and the transition from the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the NCAA Division I for women.

“My entire professional life was at Drexel and coaching at the University was a joy,” Semanik said. “I am making this gift to leave a legacy, with my husband, that supports Drexel athletics and the student athletes.”

The University will officially recognize Semanik’s philanthropy, and her and her husband’s legacy at Drexel, with the naming of the Mary and John Semanik Lobby in the Daskalakis Athletic Center this spring.

“Mary forged women's athletics at Drexel,” Zillmer said. “We are so proud of our history in Drexel athletics of being nationally ranked and recognized for gender equity. To receive a principal gift from a woman like Mary — for women — sets an example that will motivate and pave the path for other women to take leadership positions in athletic philanthropy.”

A picture in Mary Semanik's home of her and her late husband, John, a former Drexel director of athletics.

After the Semaniks’ retirement in 1991, Drexel established the John and Mary Semanik Student-Athlete of the Year Awards, “to celebrate the accomplishments of the all-around top male and female student-athletes who demonstrate the ideals of collegiate athletics, especially academic achievement, athletic leadership, community partnerships and personal integrity.” In 1994, both John and Mary were inducted into the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame.

Semanik earned a bachelor's degree in physical education from Temple University, where she was a star student-athlete. A five-sport participant at Temple, she was captain of the 1950 hockey team and was inducted into the Temple Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. She was selected to the All-American lacrosse team for nine consecutive years and played on the United States Women's Lacrosse Association touring team in 1955 and 1957. She has served as president of both the Philadelphia Women's Lacrosse Association and the United States Women's Lacrosse Association, and Lacrosse Magazine named her to the All-Century Women’s Lacrosse Team for the United States.