A four-year member of both the field hockey and lacrosse programs at Penn, Julie Heller Dembert was one of the true pioneers of Ivy League women’s sports. She was a member of the first two All-Ivy teams in both sports as a junior and senior, earning first-team honors each time. Heller was a two-time captain in lacrosse, and co-captain of field hockey as a senior. As a lacrosse player, Heller still held Penn women's lacrosse single-season record for goals at the time of her induction with 58; in fact, nobody had come within 10 goals of her record in the ensuing 33 years. At the time of her induction, Heller still was seventh on the program's all-time list in assists (41); eighth all-time in points (132); and ninth all-time in goals (91). In field hockey, Heller helped the Quakers go 4-0-2 in Ivy play in 1978 -- in fact, Penn would go 11-2-5 against Ivy opponents during her final three years. After muddling around the .500 mark her first three seasons, Penn went 10-4-1 overall in 1980 and reached the EAIAW Regionals where the Quakers fell to Delaware, 2-0. That team finished the season ranked 18th nationally by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association. The lacrosse program enjoyed far more success, record-wise, during Heller’s career; Penn went 39-13-3 during her career including 12 wins in 1980 (12-3-2) and 10 in 1981 (10-3-0). The Red and Blue went 9-1-2 in Ivy play those two years, sharing the 1980 Ivy League title with Yale (both with 4-0-2 records). Heller’s junior year, Penn advanced to the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse Association Championships. At the USWLAs, Penn routed James Madison and edged William & Mary to reach the semifinal round, where the Quakers dropped a heartbreaker to Maryland, 5-4. The Red and Blue recovered to down UMass, 8-5, for third place.
“I am thrilled, honored, and extremely proud to be joining the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame. I was so fortunate to have attended this great University and received the excellent education that broadened my learning and helped launch my career. However, as I reflect back, the memories that come to mind are the wonderful experiences I had as a player on the field hockey and lacrosse teams. I loved each and every moment. It was never about the stats -- for me it was the sheer joy of participating and competing hard with my teammates. In hockey, it was the satisfaction of making a defensive stand and turning the ball up field for a momentum-changing fast break. In lacrosse, it was executing a well-timed give-and-go, or making that final pass to a teammate curling around the crease for a goal, or getting by my defender for a shot. It was winning with effort, overcoming a disappointing loss, and above all else the exhilaration of competing.
“I want to of course thank all of my teammates, a few of whom have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I want to thank my family. We are a family of athletes who understand the importance of participating and the life skills learned on the playing fields. To my husband Dave, and my sons Mike and Eric, you make me so proud every day. To my parents, you have cheered for me nonstop every day of my life. And to my sisters and extended family, I thank you all for celebrating with me.
“I also want to give a special thanks to Anne Sage, who was so supportive both on and off the field. We all know that athletics are a metaphor for life. Sage taught me three very important lessons, all applicable to life. First, in order to create space on the field you have to continually move, never stand still -- you must deliberately make space in your life for good things to happen. Second, you have to always go to meet the ball, never wait for the ball to come to you -- you must seek challenges, not sit back and wait for them. Third, and most important, once you have the ball, you must pivot and go hard to goal—always persevere to achieve your hopes, dreams and goals.
“Finally, I would like to give a Penn “HURRAH” to my grandfather, Mendel Silverman, Class of 1925, who I know would be thrilled by my receiving this special honor.