A Great Builder and Friend

By Fred Hume, Historian, UBC Athletics

“When the history of Women’s Athletics at UBC is written, most of that document will be about the development and accomplishments of the program under the stewardship of Marilyn Pomfret.” These thoughts expressed years ago by Professor Emeritus Thelma Sharp Cook have since proven to be both prophetic and true.

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Marilyn Pomfret at the 2016 IM End of Year Banquet.

Marilyn Pomfret (nee Russell) as a UBC student during the early 1950s was, to say the least, active. She won an Intramural Block award, was elected to the Physical Education Undergraduate Society, an executive on UBC Student Council and was president of the UBC Women’s Athletic Directorate.

That record however, was only the beginning. Following teaching high school, Marilyn returned to UBC to coach the women’s Varsity volleyball team while at the same time was able to ignite women’s sports on campus as director of Women’s Athletics. Her dedication to the principles of equality and cooperation lead to the improvements in athletic opportunities available to university women, both at UBC and nationally. Much of what we now take for granted in women’s athletics is actually due to the work of Marilyn Pomfret. She pursued equal funding for women, national university championships for women, striving for one governance – men and women – for university sport.

For her work on campus from the 1960s through 1980s Marilyn has received numerous acknowledgements including YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, UBC Alumni Achievement Award along with her husband Jack, and induction into both the UBC and BC Sports Halls of Fame. UBC’s most prestigious female athletic award is named in her honour as is an important UBC intramural alumni award.

In addition to all this however, Marilyn was oh so valuable to the Intramural Recreation Program. During the late 1960s and early 1970s Marilyn oversaw the women’s side of intramurals before it merged more with the men in 1972. The young Intramural Director Nestor Korchinsky both then as now, was grateful to Marilyn for her personal efforts in arranging for funding for Intramurals administration.

Moreover, Marilyn was involved in one of the key moments in UBC history. In 1970 when the 41 year old “Women’s Gym” was to be torn down there was no talk of an intended replacement as was requested. (War Memorial was being used by exclusively by men). Marilyn, who was Women’s Athletic Director at the time, along with the Women’s Athletic Directorate, pressured and convinced UBC’s Board of Governors to approve the construction of a gym at the new Bob Osborne Centre, planning for which began in 1970. This concerted team effort paced by Marilyn not only provided a much needed new facility for the use of the Intramural Recreation Program of which Marilyn was an ardent supporter – a sport for all philosophy – but it also forged the university’s policy of providing an adequate replacement for each building demolished. It was Marilyn who pursued successfully the need for students to have adequate sports facilities and, importantly, equitable access. When we look back we can say Marilyn Pomfret is one of the great friends of Intramurals and Recreation at UBC.