WT receives $1.8 Million gift for Women’s athletic programs

By Chip Chandler

A former West Texas A&M University female athlete who played at a time when women had to hustle not only in their sport but also for resources to play will give nearly $2 million to provide scholarships for student athletes and assistance for each of WT’s women’s athletics teams, WT officials announced today.

Judy Fugate, an Amarillo resident who played badminton and bowled for the University in the 1960s and early 1970s, has set up the Judy Fugate Lady Buff Scholarship endowment, a $1.85 million legacy gift to the One West comprehensive fundraising campaign that will ensure top female athletes will receive annual scholarships.

In its inaugural year, that means that at least one athlete in every women’s sport at WT will receive a scholarship.

The money also will allow the creation of the J. Fugate Fund for Lady Buffs Athletics, which will provide critical program support for every women’s team.

Fugate’s legacy gift pushes the total amount raised thus far in the One West campaign close to $110 million. The campaign, which went public Sept. 23 and which fuels the University’s long-range plan WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World, has a five-year goal of $125 million.

“WT gave me the education to make a comfortable living and have a good life,” Fugate said. “I hope that, by endowing a scholarship, we can help young women who may not be as fortunate.”

Fugate competed in a time before Title IX guaranteed equal access and quality in athletic programs at federally funded educational institutions across the nation. As such, she and her teammates had to buy their own T-shirts to use as team uniforms. They had to carpool with each other or with their coach to get to games. They had to play whatever team their coach could find because there wasn’t even an athletic conference for women’s sports.

“Judy, I can only imagine the challenges that you and many other Lady Buffs faced in order to compete,” said Dyke Rogers, co-chair of the One West campaign. “Thank you for your dedication and perseverance not only then, but now as you set an example for others to follow through your generous philanthropy.”

This is the 50th year since Title IX was passed. Today, WT boasts women’s teams in basketball, softball, cross country, golf, soccer, indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.

“Judy, thank you for reminding us today how you embodied such Panhandle values as hard work, personal responsibility and rugged individualism, along with many other female athletes, in order to compete in collegiate athletic competition,” WT President Walter V. Wendler said. “And thank you for demonstrating today, for all of us, another West Texas value—loyalty—by giving back to WT.”

WT wants every athlete to have the opportunity to grow physically, academically and within a community, Wendler said.

“Providing student athletes such opportunity only happens through the generous philanthropic support of individuals,” Wendler said.

Title IX paved the way to creating opportunities for women in the U.S.—and at WT, said Michael McBroom, WT’s director of intercollegiate athletics.

“By the mid-1980s, WT was well on its way to becoming a leader in women’s athletics, with a national quarterfinal finish in women’s basketball in 1987 and our first volleyball national championship in 1990,” McBroom said. “Our success in women’s athletics has only strengthened, with all eight of our current women’s programs ranked in the Top 25, and most in the Top 10, over the last year.

“Judy’s generous gift will help ensure that our women’s athletic programs will continue to shine brightly in the future,” McBroom said.

Kendra Potts, coach of WT’s women’s volleyball team and 2004 WT alumna, said women like Fugate paved the way for the current success of WT’s teams.

“There is no doubt that your dedication, fight and grit still show today in our athletes,” Potts said to Fugate in prepared comments. “It is our mission to make sure these athletes understand who came before them, and through your literal blood, sweat and tears, we are where we are today.”

In fall 2021, WT’s overall GPA for student-athletes was higher than 3.0 for the first time. Nearly 200 student-athletes, or 45 percent of the total, earned GPAs of 3.3 or higher and were named to the Lone Star Conference Academic Honor Roll.

Graduation rates for WT student-athletes are at an all-time high—61 percent, up 17 percent over the past 15 years.

Thus far in the 2021-22 season, WT teams have won six LSC team championships, 14 LSC individual championships and 3 NCAA individual national championships.

WT currently ranks No. 4 in NCAA Division II athletic programs.

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