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Extracurricular Connections Bring Yale Alumni Together Years After Graduation

There are many ways people can continue to feel connected to Yale: class notes, reunions, educational programs, or local Yale clubs, to name just a few. But often the ties that connect us to each other and to Yale are rooted in extracurricular, non-academic experiences.

For me it is squash. Both at Yale and after, squash has encouraged me to reach within myself to find my potential, and it has provided a common language with new people in new places with whom I share a common interest. Squash is one of the kinds of glue that bind Yale alumni; it is one of those things that connect us across generations and across the miles.

Playing squash for Yale was one of my formative experiences. The professional coaches taught me lessons I use every day: focus, hard work, consistency, playing to your strengths, and changing a strategy when it is not working. Playing for Yale taught me the value of teamwork. And so it seemed obvious when I graduated in 1982 and moved back to New York to “go out for” the Yale Club Women’s Team. It has been fun and I have come to know squash players with whom I may or may not have overlapped at Yale. Through the club I have shared a court with Andrea Da Rif '73, '74MFA, a member of Yale’s first women’s varsity squash team; Tracy Ball Greer '81, winner of Yale’s Nellie Elliot Award; world-class player Zerline Goodman '84; and former junior stars Whitney Stewart '89 and Priscilla Marshall '98. Our team has included solid recreational players in addition to some who helped Yale win the Howe Cup (the women’s intercollegiate squash team championship) in 1977, 1986, and 1992.

Playing in the league is very sociable. Around the courts you meet players of all levels and ages. Many of us have played the tournament circuit in New York and other cities. Christina Baird Minnis '87 met her husband (who played squash for Harvard) while playing in a tournament in Chicago, and one of their first dates was to play a tournament in the Caribbean!

Following a bit of a lull in the mid- eighties and early nineties, during which American players adjusted to international rules, squash is making a comeback, and Yale and its alumni may influence the direction the sport takes. Women’s intercollegiate squash officially switched to the international game in 1994—two years before the men—and when the current court renovations at Payne Whitney are completed, Yale will again become the pre-eminent squash facility in the country. Mark Talbott, the most famous squash player in North America, took over coaching the women’s program in the fall of 1998, when coaching legend Dale Walker retired, and joined his brother Dave, who coaches the men. Melissa Mather Pearsall '89, chair of the New York Yale Club athletics committee, oversaw the renovation of the club’s courts in the summer of 1998, and they reopened last November. Zerline Goodman '84 has been part-time marketing director for the World Professional “Tournament of Champions,” which was held in a portable squash court in Grand Central Station. Berkeley Belknap '92, the most decorated player at Yale, is a candidate to represent the U.S. at upcoming world tournaments. And in April Yale celebrated 25 years of women’s athletic competition in the Ivy League.

These events provided the inspiration for an all-Yale Squash Reunion & Dinner that was held in New York to honor retired coach Dale Walker and was timed to dovetail with the Tournament of Champions in January. Sponsored by Skillman Associates and the Friends of Yale Squash, more than 100 men and women participated—from the Class of 1929 to the Class of 1999—mingling ages, eras, and genders to play some squash, reminisce, catch up, meet new players and current coaches and, of course, to sing “Bright College Years!”




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