WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Women’s basketball coach Sharon Versyp and leadership advisor Cathy Wright-Eger are recipients of the 2017 Title IX Distinguished Service Award for their significant contributions to the advancement of gender equality in higher education, in intercollegiate athletics and at Purdue.
They will be recognized, along with three others, at a reception Oct. 5 in the Shively Club at Ross-Ade Stadium. The reception will follow the “Title IX @ 45: Recollection, Reformation and Resilience” conference at Purdue.
For the last 27 years, Versyp has used the game of basketball to influence and help build strong young women. Since coming home to her alma mater in 2006, she has continued that trend, providing Boilermakers amazing opportunities and contributing to the advancement of women.
In her 12 seasons at Purdue, Versyp has accomplished amazing things on the floor, but the achievements of her student-athletes off the court are even more impressive. The list includes doctors, engineers, veterinarians, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and those who have followed her example as coaches. They have started non-profit organizations, gone around the world on missionary trips and launched events to bring awareness to causes. Overall, the women of Purdue basketball complete their tenure with a degree, an outstanding competitive experience and the ability to go leave their mark on the world.
Versyp is the winningest coach in Purdue women’s basketball history, finishing her 11th season with 237 victories, an average of 21.5 per year. Her nine NCAA Tournaments appearances also are the most in program history, guiding the program to the Elite Eight on two occasions. In 2017, she became the winningest coach in the history of the Big Ten Tournament, leading the Boilermakers to the championship game for the sixth time.
Equally impressive to the on-court accolades are the team's academic achievements under Versyp’s guidance. The Boilermakers have earned 47 Academic All-Big Ten honors during her tenure. In addition, Brittany Rayburn became the first Boilermaker Academic All-American since 2001, when she earned second team recognition as a senior, while 2009 graduate Lauren Mioton was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. Rayburn and Hayden Hamby were recipients of postgraduate scholarships from the Big Ten and NCAA, respectively, and are two of five recent Boilermakers to go on to medical school, joining Mioton, Drey Mingo and Chelsea Jones.
In addition to her work with the Boilermakers, Versyp has worked tirelessly to grow women’s basketball on a national level. She currently is a member of a national recruiting committee with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association after serving as the head of the Carol Eckman Award committee in 2015 and 2016. She also has served as the head of the Big Ten women’s basketball coaches committee, chairing its annual meetings in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Versyp has given numerous presentations and led workshops at the annual WBCA Convention.
Wright-Eger has had two careers in Purdue Athletics, both built on one strong foundation: contributing to the advancement of women.
First for 21 seasons (1987-2008) as head coach of the women’s swimming & diving program and for the last nine years as leadership advisor for the athletics department, Wright-Eger has been the ultimate resource to not only her student-athletes but also staff members.
Three words describe her: encourager, mentor and role model.
Wright-Eger is a constant encourager of new ideas and leveraging your talents and abilities to improve not only yourself but also the department. She is a mentor, always available to discuss the issues women face in athletics and her experiences with how to effectively overcome those issues. In addition, she has demonstrated that it is possible to balance having a family (she and her husband, Rob, have raised two grown sons) while working in the demanding athletics realm.
Wright-Eger’s coaching resume is impressive because of its equal levels of success in the pool and in the classroom. Her teams won more than 60 percent of their dual meets, twice placed fourth in the competitive Big Ten Conference and finished as high as 17th at the NCAA Championships. At the same, time, they maintained a 3.5 grade-point average.
She coached five Big Ten champions and 22 All-Americans. Some 231 of her student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors (an average of 11 per season), while 39 achieved Academic All-America recognition. Her graduates have gone on to become successful coaches, doctors, engineers, executives, lawyers, nurses, teachers and more.
In her second career, Wright-Eger created the John R. Wooden Leadership Institute as a vehicle to help young people grow and develop the tools to become tomorrow’s leaders. The Wooden Institute utilizes John Wooden’s own Pyramid of Success as its foundation. Purdue student-athletes attend classes and seminars, all organized by Wright-Eger, as they focus on each of the strategic building blocks that coach Wooden deemed so valuable. Wright-Eger is a highly respected voice among her counterparts across the country.
In addition, Wright-Eger currently serves as one of Purdue’s Title IX deputies and is a resource and advocate to our department and campus for Title IX-related matters.
Also being honored are Carole A. Oglesby, professor emerita, Temple University; adjunct faculty, National University; private psychology and sports development consultant; Willie M. Reed, dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue; and A. Charlene Sullivan, associate dean of undergraduate programs and associate professor of management, Krannert School of Management, Purdue.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 became law on June 23, 1972, by the signature of President Richard M. Nixon. Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.