PHILADELPHIA – It was a special evening on Saturday for the University of Pennsylvania squash program. With the opportunity to honor and celebrate the people and tradition that make the Penn squash program great, around 375 former players, family and friends gathered in Ringe Courts for the 125th Jubilee dinner and program.
The evening began with a cocktail hour, directly after a thrilling 5-4 women’s squash victory over Yale.
University President Dr. Amy Gutmann was in attendance during the gathering that filled Ringe and spoke enthusiastically, “that 33-percent of all the Penn squash players who are alive were in attendance”, and complementing the teams on “succeeding academically and also on the T”.
“It was wonderful that Dr. Gutmann was there,” said Lesile Smith Jannetta, co-chair of the Dinner Committee. “She set the tone for the night.”
Once the large crowd moved down the “hall of memories” to a festive venue, on each seat they found an evening playbill with remembrances written by five decades of players, as well as historical material including all the names of the 10 National and Ivy championship teams, 36 National Champions, and eight US Squash Hall of Famers.
Dinner Committee co-chair Palmer Page introduced and thanked the men’s and women’s Decades Captains before the introduction of special guests Howard Butcher IV, Shelia Molloy, and former coaches Demer Holleran and Craig Thorpe-Clark.
Wife of former squash coach Al Molloy, Mrs. Molloy was deeply moved as she was thanked for sharing her husband for more than 30 years. Mr. Butcher was asked to stand, and look around at the legacy of his family’s gift, the building of Ringe Courts.
Current Head Coach Jack Wyant spoke about the successful years the men’s and women’s teams are currently in the midst of, having reversed four losses from last year to wins this year.
Highlighting the current season is the sweep of Princeton, with both the men’s and women’s teams beating the Tigers in the same year for the first time in Penn squash history.
After dinner, Senior Associate Director of Athletics Tony Vecchione welcomed all in attendance, leading into the introduction of the honorees for the evening.
Honorees included former men’s player Brian Roberts W’81, Jessie Hill CW’76, David Slosburg W’74, former women’s Coach Ann Wetzel CW’52, and former men’s player Howard Coonley II C’66.
Brian Roberts spoke about the friendships that last a lifetime and how Coach Molloy taught him how to compete in life and Jon Foster taught him to have fun.
Jessie Hill spoke about how much she received from the game and how it began a lifelong passion. Later, playing with Coach Holleran’s Penn teams for fun, Hill gained the opportunity to give back to Penn Squash.
Former player and coach, Ned Edwards spoke about David Slosburg, who like Hunter Lott, simply asks, “What is best for the young Pennsylvanians?”
Ned said, “We are lucky that David has brought the same joyful intensity and passion to helping Penn Squash as he has to his own squash game.”
David observed that Penn is at the intersection of tradition and passion, and with the outpouring of support for the Jubilee event, the future is bright.
Coach Wetzel inspired the large crowd to support Penn. However, possibly the highlight of the night was Coach Wetzel's very humorous recalling of stories from the past, much to the amusement of those in attendance.
Howard Coonley, was honored with the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his mark on the sport and Penn for over 52 years.
Howard was a captain, and three-time letter winner in squash and tennis, along with being an intercollegiate singles champion. He has been president of his class for 38 of 47 years and has been the head of the Penn Squash Board since its inception almost 15 years ago. In his honor, Penn established the Coonley Bowl to recognize a student-athlete that exemplifies leadership and sportsmanship.
Coonley spoke about the legends of Lott and Molloy, and their influence on him at Penn and afterward.
Rounding out the evening Coonley said, “There is a real positive energy in the air and all of us, hopefully, just by being here, are choosing to be active participants in the next 125 years. I hope you will all stay in touch, stay involved, and hold on and enjoy the ride.”