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st. lawrence university magazine | spring 2015


her biggest ailment is some arthritis in one

index finger, the legacy of a basketball injury in college. “You

know, I’m here with older people, and many of them can’t walk

or even talk, so I’m very grateful that I can. Playing ball was

probably the best thing that ever happened to me,” she told me.

On top of that, her personality is as strong as ever. After a few

of my questions, she would laugh and reply, “Let me think,

you’re asking a woman who’s over 100 now!”

She knew exactly what to say, however, when it came to her

passion for the sport. “It was something that I loved to do and

I gave it my all, and I think our team did the same thing. We

were out there to win,” she told me. “I’d still play if I could.”

With all the opportunities that women athletes have now,

and the opportunities that I am grateful to have experienced, I

imagine she would love it even more.


Kara McDuffee wrote this story during her University Communi-

cations internship last fall. A women’s basketball tri-captain, she

was named 2015 Liberty League Player of the Year and a Capital

One Division III Third Team Academic All-American.

hen I started my basketball

preseason last fall, I didn’t

know who Shirley George

Pendell ’36 was. I learned

about her when my coach, Dan Roiger,

received a call from her niece requesting that

our team sign a basketball as a gift for her

100th birthday. When I found out that she

still talks about playing in college, I knew that

I had to talk with her. The conversation was

remarkable, both because of Shirley’s story

and because of how far women’s basketball has

progressed since her era.

Her son David was kind enough to orchestrate

a three-way call. After I explained that I was on

the St. Lawrence women’s team, Shirley immedi-

ately asked, “What position do you play?”

Shirley and I discovered that we were both

forwards, though the term is different now. At six

feet tall, I play underneath the basket against the

tallest girls. Shirley played in the forward court;

at that time, the basketball floor was divided into sections

and the players weren’t allowed to run the full length of the

court. She confessed that she didn’t like that: “Our favorite

thing was just to play outright, like the men.”

There were other differences. Even though the women’s

program at St. Lawrence started before the men’s did, the

women had fewer opponents. “We played anybody who

came along, since it was hard to find games,” Shirley told me.

“Sometimes we played local high school teams. You probably

don’t have to do that today, is that right?”

That’s right. I informed her that we travel all over New York

and New England for our games, and could have added that we

were to fly to Colorado for a tournament later in the fall. We

also share Burkman Gymnasium with the men, while Shirley’s

team was forced to play on an old court in Madill Hall with

whatever resources they could scrape together. Title IX—legisla-

tion that forbade discrimination toward women in education

programs, including athletics—passed halfway between Shirley’s

student days and mine, and I loved being able to hear about the

progress. “You’re better off with what you’ve got today,” she told

me. I agreed.

After majoring in teaching education, Shirley taught high

school in Norwich, New York, until moving back to her home-

town of Verona, New York, during World War II. She now

resides in an assisted living center in South Carolina, although

she doesn’t need much assistance; she is entirely mobile, and

Across the Decades

A basketball alumna and a current player ,


years apart in age, discover what they have in common.


By Kara McDuffee ’15

In this photo of the 1935-36 women’s

basketball team, senior Shirley George

is holding the ball, just as she did last

September, when today’s women’s team

signed a ball for her in honor of her

100th birthday.

Alex Moore, a sophomore women’s ice

hockey forward from Napanee, Ontario,

steals the puck from a Colgate player

during tense action at Appleton Arena

last winter. The Saints finished 19-12-5 and

advanced to the ECAC quarterfinal round.

Marching In