When asked to interview Evelyn Fine for a retired faculty profile, I was both pleased and surprised. I hadn't had the privilege of knowing Evelyn, since I had already graduated by the time she arrived in l954. And then, too, she was an athletic director! Although I have always loved sports, I never quite learned how to dribble a basketball or take a header in soccer But I had met Evelyn at Sidwell gatherings, and knew I wanted to learn more about this charming, diminutive woman whose smile could light up a room.
Little did I know that I would be talking with a legend. Not that Evelyn would agree. I'm told she was a bit hesitant to do an interview, thinking herself unremarkable and with no children to talk about. How wrong could she be! Evelyn's "family of girls" is spread around the world, and numbers in the thousands.
Evelyn was born in New York City, where she discovered early on that she had a talent for all kinds of games and sports. At age 11, she went to girl scout camp for the first time and loved it, signing up for each 2-week session all summer long. From then on, throughout her high school years, she was a very happy camper, a tradition that continued for 20 summers later in her career as Assistant Director of the Ken-Wood Camp in Kent, Connecticut.
Already, by high school graduation, Evelyn knew that her life would be in athletics. In preparation, she received a BS in physical education from New York University and an MA from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. By her junior year at NYU, she was captain of the field hockey team, and in her senior year received her national rating as an umpire. (She now has a National Honorary Rating for life--the only one in the metro area.)
After college, her long career in teaching began first at the Wilkes-Barre Day School in Pennsylvania and subsequently for 7 years at Hathaway-Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. At about this time, Headmaster Bob Lyle was looking for someone to reorganize the girls' athletic department at Sidwell Friends. The rest is history. Through Bob's friendship with Headmaster Howard Cruickshank at Hathaway-Brown, Evelyn arrived to begin what was to be her 27-year career at Sidwell. After an intensive three days at the Quaker orientation center in Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania, she stayed with Helen Zartman while getting further acclimated. And then she set out to revitalize her department.
Evelyn was a teacher, a pioneer, a superb athlete, an innovator, a born leader, an administrator, an advisor, a friend. She was creative in her thinking and full of energy and new ideas. When she arrived at Friends in l954, girls' sports were practically non-existent in public schools and even in private institutions were often given short shrift. To correct this sorry state, Evelyn consulted her "girls," as she called them, in the Upper School for their help in reshaping the program.
The most important thing for her was that everyone have fun. Hockey and softball, basketball and soccer were, after all, GAMES-- to be enjoyed. In her philosophy, winning was definitely not everything, and losers got hugs along with winners. To further this concept, she created three levels of teams for each of the major sports, if you were not varsity material, you were not shut out. Perhaps even I might have learned to dribble a ball! Beyond this, if team sports were not your thing, Evelyn began increasing the whole range of activities offered. Maybe you preferred swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, fencing, dancing, bowling, badminton, volleyball, hiking or horseback riding. You could do whatever met your interest and needs, even the boys! And some did, especially fencing, gymnastics and senior life-saving. One year, when there was a group of students interested in riding, there was even a horse show on the football field.
Early on in her Sidwell career, Evelyn greatly upgraded the tennis program by hiring Pauline Betz Addie, the 4-time U.S. National Women's Singles Champion and the l946 Wimbledon Champion. In addition to helping Evelyn with the existing tennis program, Pauline founded the still famous Sidwell Summer Tennis Camp. In l969 Evelyn introduced lacrosse to the program, in fact, to the Washington area. "We started it. We had to play schools in Baltimore because nobody here played lacrosse yet. Our first game was against Baltimore Friends, and the ball was mostly on the ground!" she recalls.
When Evelyn arrived at Sidwell, the Middle School athletic program was in disarray. "I started from scratch," she says, and proceeded to add archery, tumbling and stunts, dance, soccer, track and field and tennis to the usual offerings. Every girl was required to take every sport because, as Evelyn says, "Unless each youngster is introduced to each sport, she cannot really know what she likes. Every individual sport a girl said she liked, we tried to put into the program." Libby Barton, who succeeded Evelyn as Athletic Director, remarked in a l981 address to the Girls' Athletic Association, "It has not mattered to Evelyn whether someone was a hockey player, a dancer or a horseback rider; she has striven to help each person be the best that he or she could be. Evelyn has spent as much time and energy developing the skills and talents of third team hockey players as she has with the varsity team."
It was that personal touch, the attention to detail, and the ability to see the individual ahead of the athlete, which distinguished Evelyn from many other "gym teachers." After every varsity game, win or lose, there was a tea with the opposing team. At the annual Mother/Daughter Day Dinner, there were awards for nearly everyone, not just the outstanding athletes. And there was entertainment. Each year the girls put on a fashion show with clothes and modeling instruction from local stores. Sometimes their mothers performed in a skit which they had written. Special homemade decorations and invitations provided extra fun for an 8th Grade Softball Play Day. The invitations were handmade softballs cut out of construction paper; at the End-of- the- Football- Season Party, students decorated the gym with cut-out figures of football players. The walls of Evelyn's office were plastered top to bottom with photos of her girls in their gym tunics, holding hockey sticks (and some years later holding babies.) She still hears from many of them because, as she says, "They are my family."
And then there was travel. Evelyn is a firm believer in seeing the world and getting to know other people and cultures. Through the many professional contacts she has made through the years, she has been able to visit friends in almost every corner of the globe. She has circumnavigated it twice. And on a smaller scale, she has wanted the same for her girls. When Sidwell played Abingdon Friends, for example, they stayed overnight with Abingdon families. Best of all was a trip to England and Scotland in l974, when she took the varsity hockey team to play nine schools in the two countries. While on their tour, the team was able to meet the renowned Miss Appleby, who had introduced field hockey to the United States while teaching at Bryn Mawr College.
Her love of people was not limited to students or other professional athletes, however. Evelyn remembers how close the faculty was then--how much they enjoyed seeing each other off-hours, having dinner at one another's homes, trying their hands at pot lucks and bridge nights. She believes that with the growth of the school, unfortunately, some of that spirit of fun and closeness has inevitably been lost.
It should not be supposed that because of the small staff at that time and Evelyn's determination to know personally each girl in the athletic program (namely everyone) that she neglected her own life in sports or with the community at large. Far from it, while teaching at Sidwell, she was still playing hockey herself and teaching others in the D.C. area, including Southeast Washington. In l966, Sidwell hosted a Hockey Sports Day for D.C. public schools, which at that time, did not play the game. She became nationally known as a top player, official and coach, and was involved in virtually every major hockey tournament over a period of 30 years. She hosted the best-known hockey camp in Washington, and in l959 was proud that Friends was selected as the site for the National Field Hockey Tournament. Vice President Nixon presented the awards, the Calvin Coolidge High School Band performed, and Sidwell girls marched with state flags borrowed from the "new" Lord and Taylor's store. Additionally, Evelyn has held leadership positions in many professional organizations at the local, state, and national levels, and helped develop the Independent School Physical Education Association.
It is hard to believe that this sunny, vibrant woman has now been retired for almost 23 years! For many years after her retirement, Evelyn continued to umpire area hockey games, while making time for the theater outings and travel she so loves. She is still working three days a week at the Cabin John Indoor Tennis Center, and returns to Friends whenever possible. She is, of course, in touch with "her girls," many of whom now have girls of their own at Sidwell. Last summer Evelyn moved into a beautiful apartment in Asbury Village, overlooking the community gardens. She enjoys the variety of activities offered--particularly the swimming pool and exercise room -- and the interesting new people she is meeting. She does admit, however, to sneaking a quiet sandwich in her room now and then, simply listening to music, or watching TV rather than chatting in the dining room. No wonder her social calendar is so full. Evelyn genuinely loves people, and they instinctively know this; her own happiness radiates to all around her. And now that she has been so gracious and such a delight for me to interview, I'm afraid she has yet another potential dining partner to dodge!
with thanks to
Katharine Watkins '76
Susan Williams '81
Elizabeth Barton, Director, Girls' and Boys' Athletics '78-?83 for their previous tributes
OTHER TRIBUTES TO EVELYN FINE
Kay Burgunder Stevens '68
Since the mid-1960s, I have proudly counted myself as one of "Evelyn's girls." Although I feel like an elite member of an exclusive group, I know there are actually hundreds and hundreds of us out there.
Evelyn made each of us feel special. She brought out the best in the athletically gifted and also those struggling to make the team. Above all else, she taught us to be good sports, to be gracious to the opposing team, and never, never to lose our tempers; after all, it was just a game. I was amazed in college to find top athletes throwing tantrums when things didn't go their way. Evelyn wouldn't have tolerated such behavior from her girls. It took leaving the Sidwell cocoon to appreciate the quality, integrity, and spirit of Evelyn's athletic programs.
Besides being challenged to excel on the field, Evelyn's girls were expected to be good students. Academics were as important as athletics in her book. If we couldn't keep up with our homework, we couldn't play on her teams. As teenagers in the Sixties, we didn't know the term "Scholar-Athlete," but Evelyn was ahead of her time as Sidwell's leading proponent of that ideal.
When her focus was on the game, Evelyn made sure her girls had the best coaching and training. Her knowledge and love of field hockey was unsurpassed in the city, and she imparted it to a generation of her athletes. She initiated preseason hockey camp at Sidwell, perhaps the first in the DC area. One year she even took the whole team to a week of hockey/lacrosse camp at Tripp Lake in Maine, resulting in noticeable improvement in our technical skills, an unparalleled team bonding experience, and an undefeated record that season, as we cumulatively scored 21 goals compared to all other opponents' combined score of 2, "the best record of any Friends Hockey Team in over a decade!" (Philos, 1968) But while we were at camp, Evelyn didn't have us focus single-mindedly on hockey. Even though no one in Washington played lacrosse at the time, we all took up the sticks and learned the new game, along with honing our hockey skills. She must have known that this dynamic "Baltimore game" would eventually take Washington by storm, a generation before anyone else realized it.
In building women's athletics at Sidwell, Evelyn showed an incredible ability to discover and mentor other wonderful coaches in her department. Alumnae from each era at Sidwell speak of at least one other gifted coach who had a major influence on their lives. In the late 60's, for example, it was Betsy Dondero Rice, whom we all worshipped. Later it was Anne Clements Monahan and Sherry Vetter Milard. And there were many others. But Evelyn was the foundation, the one who found these incredible coaches to subscribe to her creed and reinforce the same positive values.
I am now helping to coach my own kids' sports teams, and as many others have found, it's not as easy as it looks! It's a constant challenge to figure out how to communicate effectively -- to find the right tone of voice, the right attitude, the right mix of encouragement and discipline -- to get each child to respond with his or her best effort. There's now a terrific national organization called Positive Coaching Alliance that promotes sportsmanship and the benefits of constructive, encouraging feedback from coaches rather than the angry, frustrated, negativity that we see and hear too often from the sidelines of youth sports events. I suspect that the Positive Coaching Alliance was secretly founded by Evelyn Fine, and I know that a thousand of "Evelyn's girls" understand from first-hand experience how the model works. Evelyn, we all thank you.
Cathy Ritzenberg McCulloch '68
Before there was Title IX there was Evelyn Fine. She was more our Commander-in Chief than Director of Girls' Athletics. She was the indomitable "Miss Fine" and we were her "girls," playing sports on her firmly held turf, completely confident we deserved a level playing field with the boys. We drilled, we practiced, we stretched, we scrimmaged. She talked, we listened, and then we played our hearts out for her. When I think of how I learned Quaker values at an early age, I have to think it began with her moral certitude that it was how we played the game that counted most. Integrity, fairness, teamwork, good sportsmanship: this was her creed and she imparted it to us.
Whereas she was Miss Fine, the supreme coach, to her Sidwell students, she was Evelyn to me. My parents had such admiration for her and confidence in her that they sent me to Kenwood Camp in Connecticut where she was the legendary head counselor, knowing that they wouldn't have to worry about me. At camp she was known as Evelyn to counselors and campers alike, and from the time I started camp at age eleven, I had a special bond with her that carried over to the school year. It was a privilege to think of Evelyn as my greatest cheerleader who took an interest in all that I did and developed a friendship with my family that still remains.
Evelyn instilled in all of us a sheer love of the game, whatever the sport, and a competitive spirit that makes many of us always reach for the next level. I can still hear her voice from pep talks on the bus rides to hockey matches: "Play fairly, girls, and do your best to win." If you drive past the school tennis courts on Wisconsin Avenue, she might still be out there, doing just that.
Betsy Paull O'Connell '68
Evelyn Fine was totally committed to the importance of women's sports. She knew that physical activity is vital for our physical and mental health and that participation in athletics empowers young women in myriad ways that benefit them throughout their lives. Therefore, she took very seriously her mission of encouraging those of us who were NOT natural athletes. She helped us feel that we belonged out there on the hockey field, even if we were destined to play on an intramural team because varsity or JV was out of reach. When we heard her distinctive voice ringing in our ears as we ran down the hockey field, we knew her words, "Go, get the ball, faster, now swing the stick," were completely sincere.
Margaret Weaver Krull '70
Coach, administrator, teacher, friend. These are the words that come to mind when thinking about Evelyn Fine. As Girls' Athletic Director from 1954 to 1981, Evelyn made a lasting impression on hundreds of young girls as she designed athletic programs that benefited not only the gifted athlete but every girl. She gave us the opportunity to try a variety of different sports, to play different games, to develop athletically, and most importantly, to have fun.
To enjoy sports, to have fun, really is Evelyn's philosophy. She encouraged each girl to find a sport she liked and to take pleasure in playing it. But in addition to the emphasis on fun, Evelyn fielded strong and victorious teams who were feared in our athletic conference.
And along with the fun was the development of sportsmanship in each of us -- lessons that have transferred from the fields, courts, and locker rooms to our homes, offices, and families.
Evelyn has made a clear difference in my life. She taught me the love of sports that I still have today, the joy of an athletic challenge, the spirit of competition, and the importance of sportsmanship. I am proud that she has remained a friend since my graduation -- a friendship that I deeply value.
Last revised 03/31/200