Examining the impact of ‘37 words that changed America’

Mary Carillo, a tennis champion who broke barriers in covering men’s sports and is widely considered one of the best sportscasters in the country, and Northwestern alumna Katrina Adams ’89, the first African American president and CEO of the States Tennis Association United (USTA) , who won the NCAA doubles title with partner Diane Donnelly in 1987, yesterday shared their personal experience as women who came of age around the time title IX came in 1972.

At Northwestern’s inaugural “Title IX at 50” event, they emphasized the importance of knowing the history of Title IX and talked about ongoing efforts to find equal treatment for women — on the court and outside it.

“In 2021, Title IX is the only law of any kind that gives women equality. The only one,” said Medill Professor Melissa Isaacson, lead organizer of “Title IX at 50,” which continues today and tomorrow. Isaacson moderated an hour-long conversation with Adams and Carillo before a packed house in Galvin Bienen Auditorium, drawing University leaders, scholars, athletes, advocates, players, coaches and more from Northwestern and beyond.

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To see the full schedule of events, visit “Title IX at 50: Past. present. Future.”

Northwestern President Michael Schill “bragged” to the audience about the fact that 11 of Northwestern’s 19 athletic teams, with 248 student-athletes, are women’s teams, which was “nothing short of amazing.” He noted many historical records, including field hockey, lacrosse, tennis, softball and basketball.

While president of the University of Oregon, Schill attended most of the women’s basketball games. The women’s team, he said, championed the ideal of college athletics with players driven by love for the sport, their school and their teammates.

In his welcoming remarks, Charles Whitaker, dean of the School of Journalism, Media Center, Integrated Marketing Communications, acknowledged the progress made since the passage of Title IX.

“But make no bones about it, we still have a long way to go,” he said. “We have glass ceilings left to break, but I am pleased to gather this weekend to reflect on the progress that has been made, and I look forward to celebrating the remaining barriers to full equality that will fall down, I hope. my life, although I am very old.”

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A Black woman from the West Side of Chicago, whose parents came from Mississippi and chose not to talk much about race in their home, Adams opened up more to inequality when she realized she could be a champion.

“Our sport, the sport of tennis, taught me that I was going to be a minority,” Adams said, recalling major tournaments, where she was the only Black player. She later talked about her experience on the business side of tennis, because it’s often the only handsome person.

“When I was in charge of the USTA, I knew I had to be twice as good, I knew I had to represent, and I knew all eyes were on me,” she said. . “I’ve never had a hair out of place, and I still don’t.”

When Carillo, a self-proclaimed tomboy, was young, tennis was the only sport you would occasionally see women playing on television. She grew up three blocks from John McEnroe in Queens, New York, where the two played tennis as children. When Carillo was 11 and McEnroe 9, she started losing matches.

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Loved for her storytelling prowess and raw authenticity, Carillo spoke of the importance of having “male sponsors” as she builds her career in what is still, in many ways, male-dominated sports broadcasting.

“​​​​I got all my breaks from men because they were the ones in power,” Carillo said, with a nod to the much better representation of women in his field, which allows women to lean on other women.

Adds Adams: “It’s so important that we as women are reaching out. We often push ourselves because we don’t want someone to take our place.” The speakers praised today’s female athletes for continuing their work to level the playing field.

President Schill, a Yale-educated attorney and legal scholar and longtime university administrator, read the full text of Title IX — just 37 words in all.

“This statute, sometimes called ’37 words that changed America’, had a tremendous impact,” he said.

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