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1991 NCAA Woman of the Year

Mary Beth Riley, Canisius College


NCAA Woman of the Year honored

As published in The NCAA News, November 4, 1991

Mary Beth Riley, 1991 NCAA Woman of the Year

Mary Beth Riley of Canisius College, who successfully battled Hodgkin’s disease while continuing to compete in cross country and track and excel in the classroom, received the first NCAA Woman of the Year Award October 30 in Chicago.

Presentation of the award capped the inaugural year of a program created to attract greater recognition nationwide for outstanding women student-athletes.

The award is presented by Hanes Her Way, a division of Sara Lee Corporation, the Association’s official corporate partner for women’s athletics programs. Hanes Her Way will donate $10,000 to the women’s athletics program at Canisius, in addition to $5,000 awarded earlier to the school for Riley’s selection as New York’s NCAA Woman of the Year.

Riley, a summa cum laude graduate of Canisius who majored in English and Spanish, was one of 10 finalists for the award, which was presented during a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Chicago.

ESPN anchor Robin Roberts was master of ceremonies for the dinner, which featured a keynote address by recent NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award recipient Althea Gibson, a Florida A&M University graduate who became a Wimbledon singles and doubles tennis champion during the 1950s.

NCAA President Judith M. Sweet presented the award to Riley, who was joined at the dinner by nine other award finalists and other state winners. All of the finalists were saluted in remarks by Paul Fulton, president of the Sara Lee Corporation, and NCAA Executive Director Richard D. Schultz.

Also speaking at the event was John Bryan, Sara Lee chairman and chief executive officer.
The award’s presentation caps a year in which many NCAA member institutions selected campus women of the year in athletics.  Those winners became nominees for state and national recognition.

The NCAA Woman of the Year Award program is an integral part of Sara Lee's three-year commitment as an NCAA corporate partner to improve recognition and increase opportunities for female student-athletes.

As part of that effort, Hanes Her Way awarded $5.000 to each of the schools represented by 52 state-level award winners, including student-athletes representing the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  In addition, the company awarded $3,000 more to the institutions of the nine finalists honored with Riley.

As recipient of the first NCAA Woman of the Year Award, Riley was recognized for her activities as a volunteer with Amnesty International; a founder of ARRUPF House, a Christian service organization; participation in campus ministry activities, and her work with the South Buffalo Community Table Soup Kitchen and an "adopt-a-grandparent" program.

Riley, who graduated with a 3.800 grade-point average (4.000 scale), also is a recipient of the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s Award of Valor, which was presented in recognition of her successful fight against cancer.

During the 1988 cross country season, the then-19-year-old Riley began feeling ill and eventually learned that she suffered from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer.  Even through nine weeks of chemotherapy, Riley stayed in school and competed in track.  By early 1990, the cancer was in complete remission, and Riley went on to set a school track record at 800 meters during her senior season.



The other finalists were Kristine Campbell, a fencer at Yale University; Sheila Taormina, a swimmer at the University of Georgia; Marcia Whitney Mount, a cross country athlete at Centre College; Rebecca E. Little, a swimmer at Kenyon College; Joy Selig, a gymnast at Oregon State University; Kelly Marsh, a cross country and track athlete at Bucknell University; Patty Wiegand. a cross country and track athlete at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Brenda Alcorn, a basketball player and track athlete at the University of Utah, and Laura Wilson, a skier at the University of Vermont.

Selig, Wiegand and Wilson have won NCAA titles in their sports, and Little was a member of four Division III championship teams at Kenyon.


State Winners:

  • Alabama: Lynn NoelIe Bradley, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
  • Alaska: Greta Fadness, University of Alaska, Anchorage
  • Arizona: Maicel Malone, Arizona State University
  • Arkansas: Cynthia Denise Moore, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • California: Anja Bordt, St. Mary's College (California)
  • Colorado: Leslie McCulloh, University of Denver
  • Connecticut:  Kristine Campbell, Yale University
  • Delaware: Jill Kristine Hershey, University of Delaware
  • District of Columbia: Sue Anne Cassidy, Catholic University
  • Florida: Wanda Burns, Florida State University
  • Georgia: Sheila Taormina, University of Georgia
  • Hawaii: Heather Hasslinger, University of Hawaii
  • Idaho: Stacey Asplund, University of Idaho.
  • Illinois: Lynn Devers, University of Illinois, Champaign
  • Indiana: Beth Christiansen, Butler University
  • Iowa: Jan Jensen, Drake University
  • Kansas: Stacey Slavens, Emporia State University
  • Kentucky: Marcia Mount, Centre College
  • Louisiana: Sandi Dion, Centenary College
  • Maine: Rachel L. Bouchard, University of Maine
  • Maryland: Donna White, Washington College (Maryland)
  • Massachusetts: Gwen K. Young, Smith College
  • Michigan: Julie Farrell-Ovenhouse, Michigan State University
  • Minnesota: Betsy Hansen, Hamline University
  • Mississippi: Amy Lyn Sutt, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Missouri: Stacy Roberts, Northeast Missouri State University
  • Montana: Kathleen Monaghan, Montana State University
  • Nebraska: Janni Mau, Kearney State College
  • Nevada: Amy Warrick, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • New Hampshire: Traci Walker, Plymouth State College
  • New Jersey: Pamela Franklin, Princeton University
  • New Mexico: Maria Gurreri, University of New Mexico
  • New York: Mary Beth Riley, Canisius College
  • North Carolina: Traci McIntyre, Appalachian State University
  • North Dakota: Whitney Anne Meier, University of North Dakota
  • Ohio: Rebecca Little, Kenyon College
  • Oklahoma: Jessica Frey, University of Oklahoma
  • Oregon: Joy Selig, Oregon State University
  • Pennsylvania: Kelly Marsh, Bucknell University
  • Puerto Rico: Angelis L. Marrero, The American University of Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island: Cami White, Providence College
  • South Carolina: Kelly Long, Clemson University
  • South Dakota: Bridget Lindquist, Augustana College (South Dakota)
  • Tennessee: Patty Wiegand, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Texas: Krista Wilson, Southern Methodist University
  • Utah: Brenda Alcorn, University of Utah
  • Vermont: Laura Wilson, University of Vermont
  • Virginia: Jennifer Winter, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Washington: Lisa Petticord, Gonzaga University
  • West Virginia:  Aileen J. Convery, West Virginia University
  • Wisconsin: Lori Stich, Ripon College
  • Wyoming: Shelly Thacker, University of Wyoming