Celebrating 40 Years at Rochester
Celebrating 40 Years at Rochester
Athletics Administrator and Former Coach
Jane Possee, a longtime athletics administrator and former coach, knows what it takes to be an effective leader. In 1975, she came to Rochester from Syracuse University to coach field hockey and women’s basketball. In the same year, she initiated the University of Rochester’s women’s lacrosse team and continued to coach for the next 17 years. She’s a change agent who’s been involved in significant points in Athletics’ history.
Collegiate sports across the country were on the cusp of significant change when Possee came to Rochester. Title IX had only just launched in 1972 and colleges and universities everywhere were still figuring out how to implement the federal law’s requirements. Its purpose was, and still is, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that is federally funded.
“Title IX made a big difference in how female athletes are treated. In the beginning though, it was hard to change the ways things had always been done,” says Possee. “The pie was only so big to support all sports, and we had to figure out what was doable and how to divide it equitably among the men’s and women’s teams.”
At the time Possee started coaching women’s basketball, all the women’s teams had locker rooms in the Spurrier gym and the men had theirs in the Palestra, where all games were played—by both the men and women. Possee went to the men’s coach and the athletic director and said the women should have a locker room in the building where they play their games.
Back then, the Palestra had two locker rooms on the third floor, one for the men’s team and the other for the visiting team. To Possee, it made sense to give the women the visiting team’s space. “We did end up getting that locker room, and the visiting teams went underneath the bleachers in an area redesigned for them,” she says.
“We’ve made such great strides since the 1970s and much of it can be attributed to Jane and to George VanderZwaag, who has led Athletics for the last 20 years,” says Terry Gurnett, associate director (AD) of athletics. “Jane has a steady, rock solid commitment to women’s sports that has served Rochester and our students so well.” As associate AD since 2001 and women’s soccer coach from 1977 to 2010, Gurnett has lived through many transformative moments in Rochester Athletics.
Today, there are 23 varsity athletic teams and women’s teams make up 12 of them. They include basketball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.
Possee transitioned from coaching to administration in 1992. That’s when she began overseeing the University’s recreation program, which meant taking responsibility for intramurals, club sports, and rentals; student employment; and capital planning.
In 1997, a big project came—renovating what is now known as the Goergen Athletic Center, which was made possible because of a leadership gift from Robert Goergen ’60 and his wife, Pamela, as well as support from Edmund A. Hajim ’58 and his family. Possee led the project for Athletics.
Since then, Possee’s been the point person on many Athletics’ building and renovation initiatives, including the Speegle-Wilbraham Aquatic Center, the Bloch Fitness Center, and various facilities within and across the Brian F. Prince Athletic Complex. She’ll take the lead on future capital improvements, too, such as renovating the Field House, the outdoor tennis courts, and the grandstands and press boxes for baseball and softball.
Possee is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning, a Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Rochester Press-Radio Club’s Jean Giambrone Service Award.
When she isn’t at work, Possee is with her family or sailing on Lake Ontario. She and her husband, Dick, have been married for 47 years and have six children and eight grandchildren. She is a former member and past president of the Board of Directors for the Sodus Junior Sailing Club, which her father started in the 1950s. She is also currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Genesee Waterways Center.
Staying in touch with her former team members is important to Possee. She still connects with her first group of athletes at a reunion they hold every other year. “I’ve had the best students and athletes from the start,” she adds. “It’s fun to keep up with as many of them as I can.” In 2011, a number of her former athletes established the Jane Possee Endowment for Women’s Athletics, which provides perpetual support for women’s sports at Rochester.
With such a varied, dedicated, and recognized career in coaching and administration, Possee shares the following lessons for leaders: pay attention to the details, be a good listener, and take life one day at a time.