Leaders from IU Nominated to Basketball Hall of Fame
With the influence of many Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Sisters, members of the championship Immaculata University Mighty Macs of the early 1970s went on to become leaders both on and off the court. As a testament to their leadership, the Mighty Macs have been nominated to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. The Mighty Macs won the first three women’s college basketball championships in 1972, 1973, and 1974 Immaculata and is considered the Birthplace of Modern College Women’s Basketball.
Sister Ann Immaculata Gallagher, IHM, Ph.D., professor emerita of Chemistry at Immaculata University, taught star player Theresa Shank Grentz. “We expected the athletes to play with great enthusiasm just as we expected them to apply that same vigor to their classes,” she stated. “As I remember, Theresa Shank was that enthusiastic player on the court and a diligent student in my Biochemistry class.”
Playing on all three national championship teams, Denise Conway Crawford fondly remembers the IHM sisters. Crawford, a realtor with Century 21 Alliance, has touched the lives of many people through her involvement with Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball and she received the “For God and Youth Award” from the CYO for her service to the community. Crawford’s education at Immaculata helped build character that has served her well throughout her life and career.
“Sister Marie Lorraine [Bruno] was quite influential in the lives of her students in many ways,” Crawford said. “She empowered us to be the best that we could be through her encouragement, interest and compassion. How lucky were we to have had Sister in our lives?”
Teaching French to many of the Mighty Macs (nine to be exact), Sister Lorraine, associate professor emerita of Global Languages and Cultures, stated that they were a special group of student-athletes who excelled in the sport. She recounted the time that Crawford had to guard her during a Mighty Macs vs. Faculty basketball game. “Needless to say, she was an opponent to be reckoned with since my basketball playing days were long past,” stated Sister Lorraine.
Just how special was the bond between the IHM Sisters and the Mighty Macs? One story sums it all up. “A caravan of cars filled with students and faculty were at the Philadelphia Airport at the midnight hour to cheer them when they returned from the 1972 tournament which Immaculata fans could not afford to attend,” remembered Sister Lorraine. “The next day in class Rene Muth [Portland] said that the West Chester team remarked at the number of Immaculata fans present while there was no one from WCU to welcome them home.”
With that immense support, many Mighty Macs earned special recognition for their achievements while players. Theresa Shank Grentz was named a three-time All-American in 1972, 1973, and 1974 and scored 1,167 career points and 952 rebounds. Marianne Crawford Stanley was also named a two-time Kodak All-American in 1975 and 1976 with a career 747 total points and an astonishing 544 assists. Mary Scharff, a 1977 Kodak All-American, scored 1,235 total career points with 583 rebounds and 284 assists. Rene Muth Portland earned three Outstanding College Athlete of America awards and the New York Press All-American Citation.
Benefiting from a superior education and a belief in their ability, several former players became NCAA Division I head women’s basketball coaches including Grentz who was coach for St. Joseph’s University, Rutgers University and the University of Illinois and was named head coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball team, and president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). Stanley, who has coached at both the collegiate and professional level, won three national championships as head women’s basketball coach at Old Dominion. She is now a coach with the WNBA Washington Mystics. Portland was the former head women’s basketball coach at Penn State for 27 years where she amassed a career resume that includes 21 NCAA tournament appearances including a Final Four appearance.
The Mighty Macs have proven what women can do with the right support and guidance. The IHM Sisters were the “right” support and guidance and continue to be with new generations of Immaculata students. Now, both men and women are benefiting from an Immaculata education.
“My college education prepared me for life,” noted Janet Young Eline ’74, who teaches ESL at New Oxford Elementary School. “I truly have been blessed to have been part of the Immaculata experience.”
Click here for more information about the Mighty Macs or call 610-647-4400, ext. 3143.
Immaculata University is a Catholic, coeducational institution of higher education, located on the Main Line between Malvern and Exton, 20 miles west of Philadelphia.