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October 16, 2007

Smith College to Honor Women Standouts On and Off the Playing Field

A World War II pilot, top cancer researcher and women's sports pioneer will participate in a panel discussion at noon on Oct. 31.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will honor three women lacrosse players at a panel discussion during which they will talk about how success on the playing field affected their career fields.

Gloria W. Heath, a wartime pilot and aviation safety advocate, June L. Biedler, a leading cancer researcher, and Agnes Bixler Kurtz, the first female athletic director at Dartmouth College, will all participate in the discussion, titled “The Way to the Boardroom Leads Through the Locker Room,” at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the Neilson Library Browsing Room.

Caryl Newhof, Smith professor emerita of exercise and sport studies and a celebrated player in the sport of field hockey, will moderate the panel, which is free and open to the public.

President Carol T. Christ will also present the two Smith alumnae panelists—Heath and Kurtz—with awards that honor their inductions into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame earlier this decade. Plaques acknowledging that honor will later be mounted in Ainsworth Gymnasium.

About the panelists

Gloria W. Heath, Smith College Class of 1943

During her Smith years, Heath was a member of the national women’s lacrosse team. But after graduation, she served the nation another way—as a World War II pilot assigned to fly the B-26 bomber for fighter pilot’s gunnery practice. When the war ended, Heath helped found the Flight Safety Foundation. Her contributions to aviation safety have been recognized with numerous awards including the Barbour International Air Safety Award in 1965, the Smith College Medal in 1971 and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Women in Aerospace in 1995. Heath was also cited as one of the 100 most influential women in aviation at the 100th Anniversary of Flight in 2001. A former president of the Women’s Lacrosse Association, Heath was inducted to the sport’s Hall of Fame in 2006 as a “truly great player.”

June L. Biedler, Vassar College Class of 1947

After graduating from Vassar College, Biedler played for the national women’s lacrosse team and later served as vice president of the Women’s Lacrosse Association. Biedler returned to college to earn her doctoral degree in biology at Cornell University. She then joined Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as a research fellow, working her way up to become a member and then program chair of the Cell Biology Department. At Sloan-Kettering, Biedler eventually served on the center’s ten-person executive committee—the only woman on the committee at the time. Biedler also served on advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and on the board of directors for the American Association for Cancer Research. In 2000, her accomplishments were honored with the Alumnae Award of Distinction from the Cornell University Weill Medical College.

Agnes Bixler Kurtz, Smith College Class of 1962

After graduating from Smith with a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a master’s in 1963, Kurtz traveled around the world for the sports at which she excelled: lacrosse and squash. She played for the United States in England and Australia and later coached the national team at the 1990 women’s world championships. Kurtz first taught physical education at Vassar College and the University of Delaware before taking a post at Dartmouth College, where she ushered in the women’s athletic program. Kurtz also coached the women’s lacrosse, field hockey and squash teams, retiring after 17 years, during which time she reportedly experienced only a single losing season. Kurtz was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Squash Hall of Fame two years later.

About Smith College

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. By linking the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, Smith is developing leaders for society’s challenges.  Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country, enrolling 2,800 students from nearly every state and 61 other countries.

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Marti Hobbes
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