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Sports - Campus & Community

Daskalakis Athletic Center Lobby Named for Transformative Athletic Directors

April 15, 2015

Mary Semanik, far right, in the lobby newly dedicated to her and her husband, John, speaking with former women's lacrosse player Amanda Norcini (center) and the Mary Semanik Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse, Hannah Rudloff (left).
Mary Semanik, far right, in the lobby newly dedicated to her and her husband, John, speaking with former women's lacrosse player Amanda Norcini (center) and the Mary Semanik Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse, Hannah Rudloff (left).

Together, John and Mary Semanik led Drexel athletics for nearly three decades.

They facilitated the move into Division I athletics, oversaw the creation of the Physical Education Center, and guided the University through the implementation of Title IX regulations.

For their groundbreaking leadership and contributions to Drexel’s athletic efforts, the lobby of the Daskalakis Athletic Center was officially dedicated to the Semaniks in a ceremony Tuesday evening.

“The Semaniks simply were deeply committed to nurturing the talents and ensuring the well-being of all of our student-athletes at the University,” said President John A. Fry during the dedication ceremony. “Together, they did something really rare: They built the foundation of one of the most successful and honorable Division I programs in the United States.”

Fry said the athletic programs that the Semaniks fostered “bind together the entire University.”

Asked about the legacy of Drexel athletics that she and her husband created, Mary Semanik smiled and shrugged.

“We didn’t know we were doing it,” she said. “We were just doing our jobs, you know? So this is really neat.”

A large crowd of family, friends and University faculty and staff filled the Daskalakis Athletic Center lobby for the dedication.

“The full house you see here speaks to how many people you touched here,” Fry told Semanik.

Semanik sharing a toast with Drexel President John A. Fry, left, and Eric Zillmer, right, current director of athletics at Drexel.
Semanik sharing a toast with Drexel President John A. Fry, left, and Eric Zillmer, right, current director of athletics at Drexel.

Mary sat in front and, for almost half an hour after the unveiling of the new signage, took pictures with the many different groups.

John Semanik unfortunately passed away in 2008.

“I just wish he were here,” Mary said. “He would love this party.”

She called her husband a leader, someone who “got things done.”

The Semaniks retired from Drexel in 1991. John had served as the University’s director of athletics for 29 years and Mary had been the women’s director of athletics for 26.

Over that time, they saw successful NCAA tournament bids from the 1972 men’s soccer team and the 1986 men’s basketball team.

It was also a period of growth for Drexel athletics, as the Dragons moved from the Middle Atlantic Conference to the East Coast Conference and facilities on campus were improved.

In 1992, the year after they retired, Drexel established the John and Mary Semanik Awards honoring Drexel’s top male and female athletes. The wall that dedicates the lobby to the Semaniks contains a prominent spot to feature these athletes. Last year’s Mary Semanik Award recipient, Amanda Norcini, was on-hand and spoke at the dedication.

Semanik admiring the newly adorned wall in the Daskalakis Athletic Center named after her and her late husband, John.
Semanik admiring the newly adorned wall in the Daskalakis Athletic Center named after her and her late husband, John.

Additionally, Hannah Rudloff, the first to carry the official title of Mary Semanik Head Coach of Women’s Lacrosse after Semanik gave a $1 million gift to the University, spoke about the position having special importance because of Mary’s place in the game.

Mary spent 10 years on the U.S. national squad and was eventually inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

In addition to that hall of fame, Mary and her husband are a part of Drexel’s Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1994.  

And now, their names are a highly visible part of the Daskalakis Athletic Center.

“This lobby is the heartbeat of our department,” said Eric Zillmer, Drexel’s current director of athletics. “Over 700,000 visitors come through our facility every year and they’re going to come through this space and see what you and John accomplished and on whose shoulders we stand today.”

“I’ve heard so much about what you and John did to create a culture that was warm, welcoming, fun and collegial and I’ve heard about the sense of family you were able to create,” Fry told Semanik. “And this is one of the most warm and welcoming places in the University.”

Fry said the warm atmosphere in Drexel athletics was a legacy started by the Semaniks and is “a legacy that continues today.”