$100,000 Endowment Gift of Rivkin '78 Will Support Women's Athletics

January 10, 2014

Fran Rivkin ’78, a five-sport athlete at Wesleyan, knows first hand the importance of coaching. A passionate field hockey player who landed on a campus where the sport was nearly brand-new, a non-skater who wound up in goal on the ice, and a track and field athlete whose coach believed in her, Rivkin experienced the highs and lows of women’s athletics at a newly coeducational campus.

Her desire to see women athletes prosper at Wesleyan spurred her recent generous endowment gift; her donation of $100,000 will support field hockey, women’s ice hockey, and/or women’s track, providing annual funding toward the cost of coaching interns and assistant coaches, with the initial funding allocated to field hockey.

“I want students to have great athletic opportunities, to have every opportunity to achieve their potential, and good coaching is a critical element of that,” Rivkin said.

Her early experience with college coaching was not a complete success.

“I went to Wesleyan because coming from the Midwest, I wanted to experience vaunted 'East Coast' field hockey,” she said. She dropped the sport as a freshman, when she realized the neophyte coach couldn’t provide the support she had imagined. But the pioneering nature of women’s sports at Wesleyan gave her something else.

“What did happen was that the newly created women’s athletic activities afforded me something different – an opportunity to learn new things and just stick my nose in wherever I wanted,” she said. “How else would I have come a half inch away from going to nationals as a javelin thrower, just because Stacey Vinson said to me in her Texas drawl, 'Fran, we don’t have enough people to play softball. We’ll just have to start a track team.' ”

There were high points: Hap Clark patiently coaching her in field events; working out in a batting cage with another coach; playing two varsity sports during the same season because the coaches trusted her to get it all done. And there were lows: one coach told her he didn’t work with “girls.”

In the wake of her 35th Reunion last year (when she and fellow early athletes led a raucous, standing-room-only WesSeminar) Rivkin found herself at a time in life when, “through parsimony, luck, smart investing, limited need for college tuition for kids and modest desires,” she had the resources to give generously.

“I trust Wes to steward the gift well, and I felt that by being able to designate the gift, it gave me an opportunity to have an impact in an area that I really care about,” Rivkin said. The gift establishing the Fran Rivkin ’78 Fund counts toward Wesleyan’s $400 million, multi-year campaign.

Post-Wesleyan, Rivkin played rugby, flag football and softball for many years, and stays in shape with cardio and gym work and many fundraising hikes and rides. A business consultant and tutor who lives in Boston, she is also a musician, performing and recording with a classical mandolin ensemble called Enigmatica.

Rivkin says the most meaningful aspects of her Wes experience were ‘the camaraderie that was built, the friendships that have withstood time, the general feeling of working with others who fought hard towards a common goal.” In a word: teamwork.

[Pictured at a Women of Wesleyan event last fall are Rivkin along with Kathy Mintz '78, Sheri Smith '78, and Liz Higgins '78.]