Stephens to be recognized as part of Title IX celebration
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:23AM
Gail Stephens probably has enough medals that if she wore them around her neck, they’d make her take a bow.
She’s also in Hall of Fames at Evanston Township High School and Eastern Illinois University for her exploits on the track.
But Stephens is as proud of be part of this weekend’s Title IX celebration at her former college as anything she’s accomplished in her career. Because without the federal legislation, passed in 1972, Stephens might not have had the same opportunities.
“This one touches my heart a little more,” she said. “It’s the evolution of women’s sports.”
Stephens is one of 10 former female athletes Eastern Illinois chose to highlight as part of the year-long celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX. They all will be recognized on the court following the men’s basketball game Saturday.
At Evanston, Stephens won a state championship with the 440-yard relay team as a freshman and later took third place in the 200-meter dash as a senior.
Stephens continued her success on the Charleston campus, where she was Eastern Illinois’ first track All-American. Stephens, who competed at Eastern Illinois from 1981-84, still holds two outdoor track records.
“Sports always grounded me, gave me discipline and structure,” Stephens said. “It allowed me to work with a group for a common goal. Those are all values of life, the same ones that have made me successful as a career woman.”
Stephens works for AT&T and resides in Chicago.
Stephens also is a mother of three daughters. A 2004 Evanston graduate, Akiya Alexander played basketball in high school and then at Wisconsin. Iman and Hanan Richmond are 14-year-old twins who also play sports.
All three will be with their mother in Charleston this weekend.
“Title IX played a major role in my life,” Alexander said. “It’s been a blessing in our family.”
Gail Stephens’ mother wasn’t as fortunate. As an athlete growing up in Kentucky, Mattie Stephens didn’t have the same access to sports as her daughter and granddaughters do now.
“Our family is a perfect example of the evolution of women’s sports,” said Gail Stephens, one of five siblings. “For my mom, it was about us going to college. It wasn’t all about sports. It was about the opportunity to get a good education.”