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USM honors 50 years of women’s athletics with a day-long celebration of student-athletes and alumni

Dr. Paula Hodgdon, USM hall of fame coach and administrator addresses a full room at the Feb. 4 celebration of 50 years of women's athletics at USM

University of Southern Maine student-athletes, past and present, flocked to the Gorham campus Saturday, Feb. 4 to celebrate a historic milestone in USM women's athletics.

The celebration of 50 years of women's athletics brought together several generations of USM student-athletes to honor the program's storied beginnings and to celebrate its promising future.

Speakers at the day-long celebration included current and former women student-athletes, such as Peyton Dostie '16, USM's first female NCAA national champion. Dostie achieved the feat when she took home the national title in the pentathlon in the spring of 2016.

USM President Glenn Cummings and Nancy Griffin, vice president for enrollment management and campus life, and herself a former USM student-athlete, also delivered remarks at the celebration.

But the loudest ovation of the whole celebration was for 88-year-old Dr. Paula Hodgdon, USM Hall of Fame coach and administrator. Hired in 1967 by then-Athletic Director Richard "Dick" Costello, Hodgdon is considered the architect of women's athletics at USM.

Hodgdon was hired to establish varsity-level women's athletics programs at USM, five years before the passing of Title IX in 1972. Ahead of the curve, Hodgdon and Costello wasted no time. In the fall of 1967, the first women's team, field hockey, began competition.

Hodgdon served as the head coach for the field hockey team and was also behind the bench when USM launched its second women's sport, basketball, in the winter of 1967. Today, USM fields 11 NCAA Division III women's teams.

For Hodgdon, who remains active on the sidelines today, the milestone is a special one.

"We're celebrating it because it's not something we have always had ... The men have always had these opportunities, the women have not," mentioned Hodgdon in an interview with the Portland Press Herald. "Most modern athletes don't have any idea that it took a long time to get acceptance," added Hodgdon.

To mark the occasion, USM men's basketball, women's basketball and women's ice hockey were all in action in Gorham during the celebration. Women's basketball fell 62-43 vs. conference foe Keene State while women's hockey dropped a 3-0 decision against conference rival Franklin Pierce. USM men's basketball was victorious over Keene State, 90-71.

To learn more about the 50 years of women's athletics celebration, click here.

Click here to read the full Portland Press Herald article on the celebration, authored by staff writer Taylor Vortherms.

Click here to view photos from the celebration, courtesy of the USM Department of Athletics.

Click here to watch a video on the 50-year history of women's athletics at USM, featuring remarks from Dr. Paula Hodgdon and Athletic Director Al Bean.

To learn more about the history of women's athletics at USM, check out the five-part series "From Hilltoppers to Huskies," written by Christina Cracolici, assistant director of athletic media relations. The full series can be found below.

"From Hilltoppers to Huskies"

Release One: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - The Creation of Women's Athletics at USM

Release Two: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - Paula Hodgdon, The Matriarch of Huskies' women's athletics and key figures in field hockey and women's soccer

Release Three: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - Competition, Championships and Service to the Community: women's tennis, women's cross country, and volleyball

Release Four: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - Doc Costello, Gary Fifield and USM Women's Basketball

Release Five: From Hilltoppers to Huskies - USM Women's Track and Field Teams' Sustained Success