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History-Making Athlete, Social Activist Kathrine Switzer ’68, G’72 to Deliver 2018 Commencement Address at Syracuse University
Barrier-breaking athlete, author and activist Kathrine Switzer ’68, G’72 will deliver the 2018 Commencement address at the ceremony for Syracuse University on Sunday, May 13, at the Dome. The University’s 164th Commencement will begin at 9:30 a.m.
As a 20-year-old Syracuse University junior in 1967, Switzer became the first woman to officially enter and run the Boston Marathon. That life-defining day inspired her to create greater opportunities for women in sports, including organizing an international running circuit of women’s races, being instrumental in having the women’s marathon accepted in the Olympic Games and establishing 261 Fearless, a global nonprofit to empower women through running.
“We are privileged to have Kathrine Switzer as Syracuse University’s Commencement speaker. Her story of determination as a young athlete and her work as an advocate for women in sports created much-needed change,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “Students can take inspiration from her enthusiasm for her sport that has led to a life of remarkable achievement.”
Switzer, who graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the College of Arts and Sciences, has been recognized for her activism in advancing women’s sport, health and equality. Among her many honors, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2011 and the inaugural class of the National Distance Running Hall of Fame in 1998.
“Fifty years ago, when I was an emerging athlete and a determined young advocate for women’s sports, I was sitting in that audience of graduates imagining what the future would hold. I predicted many things, but I never, ever, could have predicted that one day I would be speaking to that audience!” Switzer says. “It is an incredible honor to be chosen to be the 2018 Syracuse University Commencement speaker. If I can inspire the students in any way, it is a great privilege.”
In 1967, Switzer’s seemingly audacious act of entering the traditionally men-only race caused an international stir when a race director tried to forcibly remove her two miles into the run. The moment was captured in photos that appeared in news around the world, creating a revolution in women’s running.
Switzer finished the race, which she ran with her coach, Arnie Briggs, a Syracuse mail carrier; her college boyfriend Tom Miller, a hammer-thrower for the University who shoved aside the race director; and John Leonard, a member of the Syracuse University cross country team. She went on to pursue her passion for running and became a leader and advocate for advancing women in sports.
Senior Class Marshal Anjana “Angie” Pati ’18 is excited by the announcement of Switzer as the Class of 2018’s Commencement speaker. “As an alumna of Syracuse University, Kathrine Switzer effectively embodies what it means to be Orange. She challenges problematic discourse and systems, advocates for positive change, and continues to work toward a better world. She is a role model to many, including myself,” says Pati, a Remembrance Scholar, Coronat Scholar and vice president of Student Association. “We are fortunate to have one of our own speak to our graduating class. She’s not only a compelling figure in sports, she’s an inspiring woman who represents how powerful the strength, pride and spirit of the Orange really is.”
After the 1967 Boston Marathon, Switzer was galvanized into action—becoming an elite runner and campaigning for sports equality for women. Women were officially allowed to run in the Boston Marathon in 1972, the same year Switzer helped create the first-ever women’s road race.
Switzer went on to run 41 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, running her personal best (2:51:37) in 1975 and returning in 2017—50 years after her first entry. She won the New York City Marathon in 1974—a race that she also ran again in 2017. She is the first woman to have run a marathon 50 years after her first one.
In 1977, she created the Avon International Running Circuit of women’s-only races in 27 countries; over a million women have participated in the races. The global popularity of those races helped convince the International Olympic Committee to establish the women’s marathon in the Olympic Games. The first was in the 1984 summer games in Los Angeles.
Switzer also had a career in sports marketing, including with Bristol-Myers, AMF and Avon Products. Her expertise in running also led to a successful Emmy Award-winning broadcasting career. She provided commentary at the Olympic Games and the World and National championships, as well as hundreds of other events, including the New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and every televised edition of the Boston Marathon (37 consecutive years).
As a journalist, she has published hundreds of articles, and is the author of three books, including her memoir “Marathon Woman,” “26.2 Marathon Stories” (which she co-wrote with her husband, Roger Robinson) and “Running and Walking for Women Over 40.”
In 2015, Switzer established 261 Fearless as a global nonprofit organization to empower and unite women through the creation of local running clubs, educational programs, communication platforms and social running events. The number 261 is a nod to her bib number in the 1967 Boston Marathon that the race director tried to take from her.
Among her many honors, Switzer was named one of the Visionaries of the Century (2000), a Hero of Running (2012) and Runner of the Decade (1966-76) by Runner’s World magazine. In 2006, Switzer was awarded the Arents Award, Syracuse University’s highest alumni award. She is on the Sport Management Advisory Board in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private, international research university with distinctive academics, diversely unique offerings and an undeniable spirit. Located in the geographic heart of New York State, with a global footprint, and nearly 150 years of history, Syracuse University offers a quintessential college experience. The scope of Syracuse University is a testament to its strengths: a pioneering history dating back to 1870; a choice of more than 200 majors and 100 minors offered through 13 schools and colleges; nearly 15,000 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students; more than a quarter of a million alumni in 160 countries; and a student population from all 50 U.S. states and 123 countries. For more information, please visit www.syracuse.edu.