Philanthropist and former tennis coach Mary Wilson will be the keynote speaker at St. Bonaventure University’s Women and Girls in Sports Day April 26.
Mary, widow of Buffalo Bills founding owner Ralph Wilson Jr., will discuss “Leading the Way” with girls from 21 high schools across the region who will attend the annual event that celebrates the extraordinary achievements in girls and women’s sports.
The 450 high school students will spend the morning on campus in various sports clinics and then gather for lunch, the keynote address and a panel discussion in the university’s Reilly Center Arena.
“Mary Wilson is a remarkable woman and has an important message for these high school girls. St. Bonaventure is thrilled to welcome her to campus and appreciates the work of the United Way of Cattaraugus County and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County who made this possible,” said Dr. Paula Scraba, associate professor of physical education and director of the event.
Participating high schools this year include Allegany-Limestone, Archbishop Walsh, Austin, Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Bradford, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Fillmore, Franklinville, Falconer, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Lutheran/Jamestown, Olean, Pioneer, Portville, Randolph, Salamanca, Southwestern, West Valley and Whitesville.
St. Bonaventure student-athletes volunteer their time to put on various sports clinics throughout the day, including softball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, tennis, swimming (dry land drills), cross country/track and volleyball. In addition, other breakout session programs will include a fitness challenge and a strength and conditioning program by ROTC; nutrition by physical education and sports medicine students; and yoga by the Olean YMCA.
Ralph Wilson first brought Mary to Buffalo in 1990 for the Buffalo Bills home opener. She fell in love with Buffalo, football and Ralph. Each week they would arrive on a Thursday for tennis matches and so Ralph could take in practices as the team prepared for Sunday’s matchup. Over the next 25 years, Mary enjoyed many memorable experiences at The Ralph including the NFL’s greatest comeback game against the Houston Oilers, multiple playoff wins, and her 60thbirthday weekend celebration.
She holds a degree in physical education from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and had a successful career as a tennis coach in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Mary, one of four life trustees of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, has been an ardent advocate for Western New York. During the past 10 years she has loved developing and building her Western New York Girls in Sports program, which biannually brings 9- to 12-year-old girls together to participate in various sports taught by young athletes from local universities and sports clubs. The program is now ensured to run in perpetuity through an endowment from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation to the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.
She has also been involved in various fundraising projects benefiting communities in Buffalo and Detroit, her late husband’s hometown, including Hospice of Western New York, Buffalo SPCA, WNY Women’s Foundation, Susan B. Anthony House, Food Bank of Western New York, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter and Kaleida Health Foundation.
This year marks the 32nd anniversary of National Girls & Women in Sports Day.
About the University:The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #5 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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