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SOE alumna Sheryl Szady honored for securing women's rights to wear block "M" 

April 05, 2019

Michigan Daily sports editor Paige Voeffray honored alumna Sheryl Szady’s contribution to Michigan athletics in her article “‘That’s the way it is’: Sheryl Szady’s fight against the status quo.” In her piece, she explains that Szady helped to elevate six university women’s sports clubs to the varsity level. An athlete in two sports, Szady also secured the right for female athletes to earn the same block “M” as male athletes.


Szady played on U-M’s field hockey and basketball teams starting in 1970. She often wondered why her teams were simply club teams, while all of her opponents from around the state were varsity teams. At the start of her junior year, though, something changed: her field hockey team was blacklisted by its usual opponents. In solidarity, they had refused to play against U-M until it formed an official varsity team.

Szady started raising funds to make this happen. She first contacted the U-M Office of Development and asked to have a check box added to donation cards. She then met with the vice president of student affairs at the time, and eventually presented to the Board of Regents. Shortly after her presentation, a committee recommended that six women’s sports clubs be elevated to varsity level. 

“We stumbled into progress,” she explains, and in the fall of her senior year, she was finally able to play on a varsity field hockey team. That year, her team received transportation, funding, and other perks that they hadn’t had before. Still, there was one perk that the women did not receive: a coveted varsity jacket with a block “M” on it.

Szady took action once again, asking student government for a seat on the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics. She then promptly joined the committee for varsity awards. In the end, that committee successfully created new standards for varsity awards, but the standards did not apply equally to men and women. She fought for forty years to receive the official logo, but it wasn’t until 1991-92 that female athletes were able to wear the same maize block “M” on the same leather-sleeved jacket that the male athletes wore.

Having achieved this goal, Szady worked to help former female athletes receive the correct jacket. As the leader of the “jacket girls,” she arranged for 300 of them to be honored during halftime of a football game—in the right jackets. It was at that moment, reports Voeffray, that Sheryl Szady finally felt that all of her hard work had paid off.

Honored in observance of Women’s History Month, Sheryl Szady earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1974, a Teacher Certification in 1974, a Master of Arts degree in 1975, and a doctoral degree from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education in 1987.