DECATUR — On the long list of activities that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in 2020, Millikin’s planned 50th anniversary celebration of its women’s athletic programs was one of the most ambitious. The year-long series of events would have celebrated the anniversary of the start of the Big Blue women’s basketball program in 1970 and highlighted Big Blue women athletes throughout the university’s history.
Following the COVID delay, Millikin recently announced some details about the rescheduled event which will now run through the 2021-22 school year and culminate with a celebration weekend on May 12-15, 2022.
“The original plan was to hold the celebration in 2020, then COVID hit and we had to postpone things and so we are in line with celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX (that happened in 1972),” Millikin associate director of alumni engagement Molly Berry said. “It is going to be a 12-month celebration leading up to the gala event in May.”
Millikin plans to host sport reunions at the event as well as give the former athletes a chance to get an up-close look at Millikin’s newer facilities including the Workman Family Softball Field.
“It will sort of be a homecoming celebration for women in athletics. We really wanted to do something for each individual sport and have landed on having all of those happen on the same weekend. So if they were a multiple-sport athlete, we wanted to make it easy to comeback,” Berry said. “One of the ideas we are playing around with is having open gyms and open fields because we want the athletes to get back into that space. They can put their shoes on and take a swing of the bat or shoot a ball if they want to on the new updated facilities.”
The events will highlight Millikin’s recent women’s sports successes as the women’s basketball team won the CCIW Tournament title and the softball team advanced to the NCAA DIII Tournament for the first time since 1990 this season.
But women were participating in sports at Millikin long before they were officially recognized and an important goal for the celebration is to honor those athletes.
“In the 50s and 60s we have found photos of women’s tennis teams that were not recognized and women played in clubs,” Berry said. “We want to be able to letter those women and if those athletes want to come back, we want to present them with a Millikin letter. They would have had it if it was offered. We have to do some research and hunt down those folks.”
The research is led by Millikin library director and archivist Amanda Pippitt.
“Amanda and her student workers are looking back in yearbooks and Decaturian articles. We are trying to connect the dots and trying to reach out to those athletes and see if they have their old jerseys and memorabilia so that we could showcase it.”
The celebration event will culminate with a gala dinner that will feature a film covering the history of Millikin women’s athletics.
“That is a chance to share the full length 15-20 minute documentary we are putting together. We will have guest speakers and some cool presentations,” Berry said. “We are working on a traveling museum and as people enter we are working on these displays that show the history and timeline and some artifacts. We have a lot of work ahead of us but it will be so much fun.”
More information on upcoming events can be found at millikin.edu/women-athletics.