Hicks an ambassador for MU women’s sports
HUNTINGTON — At Marshall University, Dr. Dorothy E. “Dot” Hicks should be called the “Philanthropy Queen.”
Ever since she arrived at Marshall from East Tennessee State in 1969, Hicks worked doggedly to get women’s athletics up and running. She did it as a teacher, coach and athletic department administrator through 1999, when she retired. She had to navigate many channels — coaches and salaries, travel expenses, financial aid for student-athletes, facilities, recognition and finally fielding competitive programs.
Even after her official departure, Hicks is still on the benefactor radar for Thundering Herd women’s sports in particular and the university in general. She’s a member of several major academic organizations. Her name is on numerous awards/scholarships/facilities. The most visible is the $2.5 million Dot Hicks Field, the state-of-the-art home of Marshall softball since March 2008.
For her decades of dedication to women’s sports, education and Marshall University, Hicks has been named the The Herald-Dispatch’s Lowell Cade Sportsperson of the Year for 2012. Cade was a longtime sportswriter and editor with the newspaper.
“Dr. Hicks is so deserving for all the accomplishments she’s made in women’s athletics in the area and in women’s athletics at Marshall,” said Linda Holmes, a former Marshall tennis and volleyball coach and now director of Development and Alumni Affairs for Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
“She allowed every woman competing at Marshall now to have that opportunity,” Holmes said. “That’s a lot of personal sacrifice.”
Hicks created the women’s intercollegiate athletic programs at Marshall. She served as an associate athletic director in the mid-1970s. She also was a professor in the Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Marshall University, serving as chair of the Physical Education Department, and previously coached several sports at Marshall, including tennis, golf and volleyball.
Her fundraising for the university includes contributions to the softball stadium that bears her name as well as several scholarships for women athletes at the university.
Hicks was Marshall’s faculty representative to the NCAA from 1982 to 1994. She was vice president and president of the Southern Conference and received the Southern Conference Commissioner’s Award for Service. In 1988 she received the Celebrate Women Award for Sports from the West Virginia Women’s Commission.
Hicks, now 82, said she learned the value of sacrifice and goal-setting during her school days at Hickory High School in Nashville, Tenn. She credits Ms. Prentice (basketball/track coach) and Ms. Perry (history teacher) for that.
One season Prentice added tennis to her busy coaching schedule. Hicks played No. 6 singles the first year and won only one set.
“She got us some help,” Hicks said of Prentice securing a tennis instructor for out-of-season work. “We met two times a week.” The next season Hicks won the Tennessee state singles and doubles titles. “She listened, showed interest,” Hicks said. “She knew we had to have help.”
Perry delivered on the academic side. Hicks recalled Perry asking the then-student this question: “Where are you going to college?”
“I said ‘I’m not. My family can’t afford it,’” Hicks said. “She said, ‘You’re going to college.’”
It so happened the Nashville Kiwanis Club awarded college scholarships. Hicks, with Perry’s help, drafted a letter seeking that scholarship. Hicks got the grant and off to Peabody College she went.
“I owe my professional life to her,” Hicks said of Perry. “If not for her, I wouldn’t be here today.”
During a talk once with Marshall scholarship athletes, Hicks told them about a speech she made to the Nashville Kiwanis Club her senior year. “I made a promise,” she said. “I said when I’m able, I’ll make contributions to help others the way you helped me.” She’s kept her word.
In 1974, the Marshall Department of Athletics (under athletic director Joe McMullen) took women’s sports under its wing. That move served as the catalyst to really open once-closed doors to female athletes. Hicks actually awarded the first two scholarships herself to senior Kathy Haas in basketball and freshman Nancy Bunton in golf.
Her financial generosity now shows four endowed scholarships established by Hicks, including one in her own name for women’s golf. The other endowments in the names of former coaches are for Holmes (volleyball), women’s basketball (Donna Lawson) and tennis (Betty Roberts).
Monetary goals for those endowments are almost met to the tune of $200,000.
Hicks said it’s possible she’ll seek a fifth endowed scholarship for women’s track (Arlene Stooke).
“If I live that long, Lord willing,” Hicks said. “She deserves it.”
Hicks competed in athletics at Peabody and coached at East Tennessee State for four years before coming to Huntington.
“Been on both sides,” she said of going from paying to having the way paid. “We had good teams at East Tennessee State. We traveled. I come to Marshall, nothing. I’m a strong believer in what it meant to my life. We had talented athletes (at Marshall). They just had to be exposed (to competing). To me it was our professional responsibility to provide avenues.”
Hicks said she often hears from former athletes. Bunton, the first woman inducted into the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame, is now involved in golf course architecture in Texas. There’s Beverly Duckwyler in basketball (she went into the Hall of Fame with Bunton in 1986), Karen Pelphrey (basketball), Holmes, Tammie Green (golf) and many more.
“There’s a sense of satisfaction,” Hicks said.
Hicks has touched lives in many ways. To her, the academic side outranks them all. She wanted an athlete prepared for her event. More importantly, she wanted her prepared to face life.
“The girls are taken care of,” she said of their time at Marshall. “We’re molding people. Our goal is to put good people out there.”
Hicks knows fundraising is important to college athletics. Her advice/plea: “Start small, $5 a week,” she said. “Then improve. But first you have to start.”
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