Athletic Hall Inductees
The Athletic Hall of Fame celebrates excellence and extraordinary achievement in athletics.
These impressive athletes have been instrumental in helping mold Baldwin athletics to what it is today. Baldwin celebrates these women who are proof that Baldwin girls’ determination and commitment extend beyond the classroom.
|Class of 2014||Coach Margot Cunningham, 1961-74 & 1976-1991||Field Hockey, Tennis, Swimming, Basketball, Lacrosse|
|Rachel Funk Jenkins '44||Field Hockey, Tennis, Basketball, Lacrosse, Softball |
|Louise "Topsy" Ward '60||Field Hockey, Lacrosse, Basketball, Badminton|
|Wendy Strauss '85||Tennis, Basketball|
|1987 Varsity Lacrosse Team||Lacrosse |
|Class of 2013||Babs Greer Meldrum '47||Field Hockey|
|1943, 1945 and 1946|
Varsity Field Hockey Teams
|Lyn Hopkins Thornthwaite '63||Swimming |
|Coach Judy Michel 1968-86|
|Ruth Davidon Rodgers '82||Crew |
|Leslie Lyness '86||Field Hockey, Basketball, Lacrosse |
|Julia Pudlin '02||Cross Country, Indoor Track, Track and Field || |
LACROSSE, TENNIS, BASKETBALL, SOFTBALL, FIELD HOCKEY, COACH Rachel Funk Jenkins ’44
Rachel Funk Jenkins is an alumna, a former member of the faculty, and a former Chair of the Board of Trustees. She was heavily involved in the athletics program from the time she started at Baldwin in Grade VIII. While a student, she played on many teams and then later returned as a physical education teacher, coach, and head of the athletic department. Known for her calm, wise manner, she is cherished for her love of all things Baldwin.
When Rachel began attending Baldwin, participation in competitive sports was only available for Upper School students. Although she was only in Grade VIII when she started at Baldwin, Rachel played on many different teams that year and remembers fondly how she looked forward to spending time with the older girls on the field.
Rachel played lacrosse, tennis, basketball, softball, and was the head of the field hockey team. She was a member of the all-star field hockey team comprised of girls from Shipley and other area schools that competed against teams from other countries and was named “Most Athletic” by her peers. For Rachel, the day began at three when she could gather with her teammates for practice or a game. In 1942, she received the White Blazer, which she says was a nice surprise.
In 1952, Rachel returned to Baldwin from University of Pennsylvania, where she was a physical education instructor after graduating from Penn with a B.A. in Psychology and an M.S. in Education.
While a member of the faculty, Rachel coached field hockey, basketball, lacrosse, tennis, and badminton. She steered Baldwin’s 1961 field hockey team through an undefeated season and created the badminton program. Rachel is remembered fondly by the women she coached for her ethics, good sportsmanship and her never-failing pursuit of not only winning, but of excellence. Her former students agree that Rachel made sure that each player felt equally important on and off the field.
Rachel is remembered for the individual attention she gave students that allowed them to build a sense for teamwork. Her winning spirit and fun attitude, along with her strong sense of excellence afforded her the ability to always provide positive reinforcement for a job well done, as well as be caring and supportive in the face of defeat.
Rachel’s zest and can-do spirit has always been a valuable asset to the athletic department at Baldwin. She credits her involvement in sports at the School with providing her valuable life skills, such as the ability to work with and lead a team, which she has carried with her throughout her life. She is still a huge fan of Baldwin athletics and reads the sports section of the newspaper every day to see how the Baldwin teams are doing. Rachel Funk Jenkins has and continues to serve her alma mater well.
FIELD HOCKEY, LACROSSE, BASKETBALL, BADMINTON Louise “Topsy” Cowgill Ward ’60
The majority of Topsy’s most treasured Baldwin memories revolve around her involvement in sports and the relationships she developed with her fellow teammates and coaches. An avid field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, and badminton player, she has warm recollections of the many Friday afternoon games spent on the various Baldwin fields and courts.
Topsy said she always loved the athletic side of Baldwin and that she would look forward to practice every day. She was head of the Athletic Association and played goalie for the varsity field hockey team in Grades X - XII. Topsy was a founding member of Baldwin’s first badminton team, whose undefeated season was all the more impressive as the lack of local high school involvement resulted in them only facing college teams.
She remembers fondly the honor of winning the White Blazer, saying it was a special treat. Topsy said she will never forget the moment she learned how to cradle in lacrosse after hours and hours of less than coordinating effort, pizza parties after games with her teammates and Miss Funk, and the joy of beating rival Shipley in “anything at any time.”
In one humorous account of her days as a student at Baldwin, Topsy shared how, as president of the Athletic Association, she attempted to address the ongoing crow problem on the field hockey field by creating a fun competition to reclaim it.
“I organized a scarecrow contest and the scarecrows were to be made to look like Miss Funk,” she said. “It didn’t work at keeping the crows away, but we all had a good laugh.”
More than anything, Topsy remembers the rich relationships she developed with her teammates and coaches, saying she is extremely appreciative of her coaches and is happy that she and Rachel Funk Jenkins are being inducted together, as they are good friends now. She said her coaches were excellent role models, committed to the development of the player’s athletic abilities, as well as their personal development.
After graduating from Baldwin, Topsy went to the University of Colorado to study history but did not continue her involvement in sports, saying it just wasn’t the same. However, she found other ways to maintain her connection to athletics over the years, like in 1986 when she had the honor of carrying the Olympic torch in Atlanta and was instrumental in creating the Rachel Jenkins Athletic Scholarship.
Topsy credits Baldwin’s athletic program with allowing her to appreciate and understand team work and providing her with the drive to always strive for excellence, which has helped her throughout her life. She has worked for Pan Am, American Express and Clorox before pursuing her passion of working with animals, while addressing the issue of world hunger, as a volunteer in Arkansas with Heifer Project International. She lives on a ranchette in Florida with goats, cows, dogs, and a horse and she enjoys spending time at her vacation home in North Carolina.
COACH Margot Cunningham (1961-1974, 1976-1991)
Margot Cunningham was a member of Baldwin’s Physical Education department for 28 years. A dedicated member of the community, she taught Grades K-12 and coached multiple teams including field hockey, lacrosse, swimming, basketball, and tennis. A strong leader, she is exactly what the Athletic Hall of Fame is all about.
Margot came to The Baldwin School from Boston. She was excited to be in an area with more teams and coaching opportunities for field hockey and lacrosse, explaining that in Boston there were only enough teams for a six game season.
She remembers fondly her most victorious seasons with Baldwin, leading the field hockey team in an undefeated season in 1986 and coaching the 1979 lacrosse team during its undefeated season that year.
Dedicated to Baldwin athletics, she served as the advisor of the Athletic Association and advisor of the ski club, in addition to coaching. She was also the Grade VI advisor and took four touring field hockey teams to Europe.
Margot said she always enjoyed going to work and loved the time she spent coaching at Baldwin saying, “Baldwin girls are intelligent girls that have the will to work.” She said these qualities were especially important on the field, explaining, “In field hockey, you’ve got to have brains because you can only use the flat side of your stick and it makes it a very interesting game.”
At her retirement in 1991, the Athletics department created the Margot Cunningham Sports Commitment Award in her honor, given annually at the Athletics Banquet.
TENNIS, BASKETBALL Wendy Strauss ’85
Wendy Strauss has always been an athletic force to be reckoned with. A member of the 13-Year Club when she graduated in 1985, she was dedicated to the athletic program at Baldwin during her time here.
A strong tennis player and leader, Wendy played on Baldwin’s varsity tennis team for five years and was the team captain during her senior year. She was coached by Baldwin’s Suzanne Valutas and demonstrated her extended dedication to the sport by also training at Julian Krinsky in Narberth.
Although she excelled at tennis, it wasn’t Wendy’s only sport at Baldwin. She established herself as a solid team player as the captain of the varsity basketball team and co-head of the Athletic Association her senior year. Playing singles, Wendy helped drive the Baldwin tennis team to victory in 1984 with the team having an outstanding 5-1 season, winning them second place in the recently formed Inter-Ac League.
Wendy was a commendable athlete and was recognized throughout her time at Baldwin. In 1984, she was awarded the Steffen Wright Tennis Award and in 1985, as a senior, she won the White Blazer for her athletic accomplishments. When she graduated from Baldwin, Wendy went on to attend Rice University where she studied behavioral sciences and after graduation, she moved to Florida.
Wendy has continued to play tennis over the years and in 2000, she became a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Certified Professional. She has lived around the world in Paris, London, and in New York City, where she was able to combine her love of tennis and service to her community teaching inner-city children how to play tennis.
Recently, in 2012, she was named Women’s Open Player of the Year by the United States Professional Tennis Association Midwest Division, which honors those who stand out in all aspects of the tennis industry. In 2013, Wendy was ranked United States Tennis Association #5 in Women’s Open Singles in Chicago and United States Tennis Association #5 Women’s Open Player in the Midwest, which is the second largest of the 17 divisions.
Today, Wendy is a 4.5 United States Tennis Association player and plays singles on her club team. She continues to make Baldwin proud of her continued achievements in athletics and embodies the Athletic Hall of Fame award criteria of camaraderie, teamwork, and commitment.
Team Award Honoree 1987 Lacrosse Team
In 1987, Baldwin witnessed one of its most successful lacrosse teams power through an impressive season.
Baldwin honors its 1987 lacrosse team for continuing to set the bar high for Baldwin teams and not only embodying but committing themselves to the Athletic Hall of Fame criteria of camaraderie, teamwork, and dedication.
Noted throughout the season for being a young team, these Bears proved age is just a number as they finished with an overall record of 5-1-1 and won the Inter-Ac Championship.
Leading the team was Coach Debbie White whom players called the best coach they’ve ever had. She was physically and mentally demanding of her players, providing “mental toughness talks” on Wednesdays and making the girls alternate between long distance runs one day and sprints the next. But she always believed in what they could accomplish. She made Baldwin proud, leading the team to victory proving yet again that Baldwin girls can do anything they set their minds to.