At Michigan Tech, any discussion on the history of women’s
sports must start with Cheryl DePuydt.
Forty years after Title IX was enacted, 38 years after Michigan Tech began its women’s athletic programs and seven years after DePuydt’s passing, her legacy lives on through 115 female student-athletes at Tech.
“Cheryl always had an appreciation for athletics and the value it provided students in their development,” said Michigan Tech Athletic Director Suzanne Sanregret. “Her role in getting women’s athletics programs off the ground demonstrated her commitment that athletics opportunities be given to both men and women.”
DePuydt, a Marquette, Mich., native, graduated from Northern Michigan in 1972 and came to Tech right away to teach skating. She was the first female instructor in the Michigan Tech athletic department.
When it came time to start women’s athletics in 1975, DePuydt volunteered to become the coach for basketball and volleyball in addition to her full load of classes.
Then-athletic director Ted Kearly didn’t hesitate calling on DePuydt. “She was one of the most fantastic people I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “She coached both teams, and she didn’t receive extra pay for it. That was her donation to the development of women’s athletics at Michigan Tech.”
DePuydt coached the volleyball team six seasons (1975-80) and the basketball team three seasons (1975-78). She built the foundation for both teams to have success in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the years to come.
Her constant passion was figure skating. Thousands of Copper Country youth learned to skate under DePuydt’s tutelage.
“She had so much patience,” added Kearly. “She had beginning classes, and some of these kids had never put on skates before. If they were willing to work, she’d be willing to help them,” added Kearly.
DePuydt received Michigan Tech’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1982. She was honored statewide for her teaching in 1991, and was named chair of Tech’s Department of Physical Education in 1995.
She later received the Clair M. Donovan Award for outstanding service.
With her position in the physical education department, DePuydt remained a role model for student-athletes and co-workers alike.
“Cheryl was my first female mentor in athletics,” said Sanregret. “She influenced me in understanding that Title IX wasn’t about men or women. It was about giving all of our student-athletes a positive, meaningful, educational experience. It wasn’t a line drawn in the sand between men and women, but cooperation and mutual respect between all of our programs to make them all better.”
DePuydt continued to hold the role of PE department chair until her passing in 2005 following a battle with cancer.
She will forever be remembered for her positive contributions to Michigan Tech and women’s athletics.
“Cheryl helped create a culture of doing things the right way and giving equality to women’s sports,” said Sanregret. “Her commitment, values, ethics and morals are still present in our athletic teams today.”
--Adapted from a story printed in Tech Today, Sept. 27, 2005.
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