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Smith College honors Senda Berenson during inaugural athletics hall of fame ceremony

Published on October 21, 2012


Smith College’s athletics department inducted its first-ever class into the Smith College Pioneers Hall of Fame at a ceremony Saturday. Inductees included the founder of women’s basketball, Senda Berenson, who adapted basketball for students at Smith when she heard about James Naismith’s game in nearby Springfield. Students at Smith began playing basketball in 1892.

“Today” show correspondent Sara Haines (’00), who played volleyball at Smith, served as the emcee. Overall, 12 individuals and one team make up the inaugural class.

Senda Berenson, the founder of women’s basketball. Watch the award-winning documentary “A Smith First: The New Game of Basketball”

Berenson, the “mother of women’s basketball,” officiated the first public women’s basketball game in March 1893. A squad of juniors played against a squad of first-years. The first year students won the game 5-4. She formalized her basketball rules in 1899 and they stayed in the place in the game, with only minor modifications for several decades. She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985.

During the induction ceremony, Smith president Carol T. Christ, quoted inductee Berenson who said “the great evil…is that we lose sight of all things except the desire to win – to win by fair means or foul – to beat the other side.” She added that in response to that, “women’s athletics grew as a way to foster teamwork, self sacrifice, the awareness in each woman of a world broader than her own, and an ideal that guides us at Smith even today – that women helping each other gain greatness is a victory we all share.”

Other inductees who were involved in the development of the game at Smith or who played for the Pioneers (bios from Smith):

Dorothy Ainsworth ‘16 worked both nationally and internationally in the name of female health and physical education. During her time as a physical education instructor and eventually physical education director at Smith, she significantly expanded sports, facilities, and the overall enthusiasm and student participation within the physical education realm. Working at Smith from 1926-1960, Ainsworth increased the number of sports offered from six to 14, helped facilitate additions to facilities, including riding stables, squash courts, an ice hockey rink, four hockey fields, two soccer fields, 26 tennis courts, three fairways and holes for golf, ten archery ranges, and four shells for crew, and initiated a graduate course for the training of physical education instructors. So great were her contributions, that when the college expanded the Scott facility in 1977, the new addition was named in her honor.

Victoria Murden McClure ’85 was four year member of the Smith College basketball team, as well as a member of the varsity crew and squash squads. As a sophomore, McClure’s team finished 16-9, setting what was at the time, a record for wins in a season. That year, McClure went on to set what were Smith College records for average rebounds per game (11.3) and field goal percentage (44.6%). McClure went on to become the first woman to complete a solo row across the Atlantic Ocean, making the 2,962 mile trek in 81 days.


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