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Gail Marquis: From basketball court to Wall Street

Former star at Queens (New York) parlays lessons learned in athletics to success at many levels

Gail Marquis discovered a love for playing basketball while growing up in Queens, New York. Along the way, she also acquired skills that have propelled her to success as a college, Olympic and professional women’s basketball player, on Wall Street as a top-rated financial service professional and as a citizen of the world.

Marquis, a two-time All-American at Queens College (New York), led her team to postseason appearances and a national ranking for four straight years. Her 1972-73 Queens (New York) team made history as the first women’s squad to be inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

She earned a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, won the Women’s Basketball League championship with the New York Stars and worked at some of the largest financial firms on Wall Street. Throughout her journey, Marquis drew upon the lessons she learned through sport – desire, dedication, determination – and has seen them pay off in numerous ways.

Desire

In junior high school, Marquis discovered basketball during a teachers strike. With no classes to attend, she wandered into a local Catholic Youth Organization’s gym to shoot hoops with friends. It wasn’t long before Marquis knew she had found a home on the court.

Marquis played pick-up games after school when gym teachers would roll out balls and supervise the girls’ basketball club. By her sophomore year, her high school had formed a sanctioned team.

“I was lucky to play six games a season,” she said. But the statistics she put up in those few games began to accumulate. Her desire to continue playing basketball in college encouraged Marquis to get creative in attaining her goal. She gained coverage of her team’s success by sending season statistics to a local newspaper columnist who wrote about women’s sports.

Gail Marquis enjoys a return visit as a volunteer coach at the Taipei American School (Taiwan). Photo: Taipei American School (Taiwan)

Eager for more competition, Marquis contacted the coach at Queens (New York), asking if her high school team could practice against them. The coach agreed, and the next weekend Marquis and her high school teammates were on their way to scrimmage against the college team.

“We lost pitifully,” Marquis recalled, “but at that time that was the closest thing we had to tryouts or scouting, and so it was really a chance for the Queens College coach to see me play and show my interest in the college. ”

Marquis’ tenacity paid off when she enrolled at Queens (New York) and earned her roster spot on the women’s basketball team. But her expectations were promptly turned upside down when she learned the intensity in college basketball. During her freshmen year, she struggled to find her niche on the team and the proper balance between academics and athletics.

Dedication

Queens (New York) coach Lucille Kyvallos suggested that Marquis coach at a basketball summer camp for girls in Pennsylvania. Although Marquis had no intention of becoming a coach, she accepted the challenge to help young girls learn the game. Slowly, her coach’s reasoning started to make sense and the teacher became the student.

Marquis had to explain fundamentals such as boxing out, ball handling, defense and shooting form. “In teaching these tiny little girls, I learned the sport along with them,” she said.

During her sophomore year, these lessons started to pay dividends. Marquis helped lead her Queens (New York) team to successful seasons, including playing for the national championship and being the first women’s team to play in Madison Square Garden. She also garnered the attention of coaches across the nation. Following her senior season, Marquis was invited to try out for the national team with some of the most accomplished women in basketball. She would go on to win a silver medal in 1976 – the first year that women’s basketball would be played at the Olympics.

Marquis played professionally in France while working toward her master’s degree in business. She also taught basketball as a volunteer at the Taipei American School in Taiwan for a number of years.

Determination

After basketball, she headed to Wall Street. Without formal training in business, Marquis relied on the lessons she learned as a student-athlete to become an asset in the financial world.

“There were a lot of guys there, but I learned I could keep the conversations going because I knew sports, and they loved it,” Marquis said. “I was able to move through different financial service firms and found it to be much more competitive than my degree and work in teaching.” Her work ethic and ability to connect with clients helped her succeed on Wall Street for more than 30 years.

Marquis realized she could impact lives not just on the court but also in the business world. Today, she oversees the New Jersey City University School of Business’ relationships with all outside, non-academic organizations and helps students put their ideas in motion and gain experience through internships.

“In my campus job, I get to nurture men, women and students who don’t know about Gail the athlete, but do know about my experiences,” Marquis said. “All my skills, from being a team player in college, my 30 years on Wall Street and dealing with clients from around the world – all of that comes together now and I’m able to help a lot of folks.”

Comfortable on any stage, Marquis has been a sports commentator and sports show host on television and is a representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She serves on several boards, including the Queens College Foundation. She is a member of the inaugural class of the Queens College Athletic Hall of Fame and is the first woman of color inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

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