January 31, 2018

Carol Agnes '67 wins Breaking Barriers Award

Carol Agnes coaching in November 1974. Photo courtesy of the College of Saint Benedict Archives.

St. Catherine University alumna Carol Agnes '67 will be honored for her work in helping to build the athletics department at the College of Saint Benedict from the ground up. Agnes is one of this year's Breaking Barriers award winners who will be celebrated at National Girls and Women in Sports Day. She will be honored at a ceremony held at the Minnesota History Center at noon on Wednesday, February 7.

When Agnes was growing up, athletic opportunities for women and girls weren't available. She participated in Girl Scouts and found the recreational and leadership opportunities valuable. During her time at St. Kate's, she participated in athletic events called "play days." She graduated from St. Kate's in 1967 with a degree in physical education.

In 1972, Agnes arrived at the College of Saint Benedict to serve as the Recreation and Student Activities Coordinator. The only recreational opportunity available for female students was powder puff football. Her first step was to add intramural sports at CSB, and soon there were more than 20 teams participating. The small gymnasium had a floor made of old tiles, so Agnes campaigned for – and received – funding for a floating wood floor for the gym. In 1973, basketball and volleyball became the first varsity sports offered to women at Saint Benedict. Swimming and diving was added in 1974.

In the fall of 1974, Agnes became the school's first athletics director – a position she held until she left the school in 1979. She also coached the basketball team from 1973-77, and the volleyball team from 1973-75. In those early years, there was little to no funding for CSB athletics, so through student government, she found funding for uniforms – T-shirts with numbers on the back that were shared between basketball, volleyball and then softball when it was added in 1975. In 1976, tennis was the final sport added under Agnes' watch, bringing CSB to five varsity sports.

In order to give student-athletes as many opportunities and as positive an experience as possible, Agnes became certified in CPR and trained in athletic injuries, serving as one of the school's first athletic trainers.

Shortly after Agnes left the school in 1979, CSB joined the Midwest Women's Collegiate Conference, where it competed for six seasons before joining the MIAC in 1985. Thanks to Agnes' vision, persistence and belief that all women should have access to recreation and athletics, CSB now has 11 varsity athletic programs.

When Agnes attended her 45-year St. Kate's Reunion in 2012, she noted that her most interesting accomplishment since graduating was establishing the athletics program at Saint Benedict.

The award ceremony honoring Agnes and others will happen in conjunction with the 32nd-annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a nation-wide celebration recognizing the accomplishments of individuals in the promotion and advancement of girls’ and women’s sports. The 2018 ceremony will honor 21 individuals, groups or programs that will receive awards in six separate categories. Award recipients are nominated by schools, community organizations, recreation centers, and amateur and professional sports organizations. All are invited to attend this special event at no cost.