February 7, 2003


RICís Gail Davis To Receive Words Unlimitedís Coveted Bill Cawley Award

Providence, RIóFormer Rhode Island College Associate Athletic Director Gail Davis will receive Words Unlimitedís Bill Cawley Award at the organizationís annual banquet on Sunday, Feb. 9 for her contribution to Rhode Island athletics.


            So much has happened in the world of womenís intercollegiate athletics, and Rhode Island Collegeís Gail Davis has seen it all. On Dec. 29, 2001, Associate Director of Athletics Davis retired, stepping down after over 25 years of service to RIC student-athletes.


            A native of Philadelphia, Davis first became involved with sports while at Frankford High School, where she participated in field hockey, basketball, softball, swimming and her favorite sport: gymnastics.


            Upon her graduation in 1959, she headed off to East Stroudsburg University. Over the next four years Davis was exposed to a variety of different sports. She competed in field hockey and archery, as well as performing on a traveling, co-ed, exhibition gymnastics team. During her junior year she had the opportunity to learn the sport of lacrosse.


            Davis graduated in 1963 with a bachelorís degree in physical education and immediately embarked on a teaching career. Her first job was at Fels Junior High School in Philadelphia where she taught health and physical education for one semester. She then moved on to the Philadelphia High School for Girls in February of 1964, where she taught and coached until 1967.


            It was in 1967 that Davis entered the world of intercollegiate athletics. Davis had been coaching and judging gymnastics for several years and, through her connections, was offered a graduate assistantís position at Southern Connecticut State University. Muriel Grosfeld [U.S. Olympic Gymnast] mentioned the position to Davis and it was something she really wanted to do. Davis had taken courses over the summers at both the University of Oregon and at the University of Wisconsin and wanted to pursue her mastersí degree more actively.


            Davis was a G.A. at SCSU until 1970 when she earned her mastersí degree in education. The staff was impressed with her enough to hire her on the spot for a full-time faculty position. In addition to her gymnastics coaching duties, Davis taught fencing, golf and gymnastics classes.


            In 1976, Davis felt she needed a new challenge after nine years at Southern Connecticut. She began applying for jobs and landed at RIC. Little did Davis know that would be her final career move for the next quarter of a century.


            During her tenure, Davis coached both the softball and womenís tennis teams, but she will always be remembered for her coaching of the womenís gymnastics team. In the 1970s, it was a real challenge to build some of the womenís programs. Some of the teams only had two players and recruiting was very important. Davis was instrumental in forging the RIC womenís varsity programs.


            Davis was also active from the beginning with the Rhode Island Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (RIAIAW), helping create championship events for collegiate womenís sports in Rhode Island.


            Gymnastics was the last sport Davis gave up coaching, stepping down in 1995. She has continued to stay involved with the sport and she stills helps out with NCAA National Collegiate Regional and National Championships each year. She has judged gymnastics competitions worldwide, but recently concentrated on the Rhode Island High School scene. Davis served on the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors for many years representing both the NCAA and the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastic Coaches of Women.


            She has twice served as RICís Interim Director of Athletics, in 1980-81 when then A.D. Bill Baird took the Collegeís Development Officerís position for a year and a half, and then again for an amazing three-year stretch from 1992 until 1995. It was during that time period that she helped guide RIC Athletics through perhaps its most difficult hour.


            It was January 5, 1992 when Walsh Gymnasium burned down. Davis immediately got on the phone to all of the other schools in the area. URI donated old uniforms to replace the ones that were lost. Davis helped procure the use of Providence Collegeís gym and Our Lady of Providence for the basketball, wrestling and womenís volleyball teams.


            Davis oversaw much of the day-to-day activity at that time. Although she began a sabbatical in May of 1992, an unexpected twist occurred: Athletic Director Bill Baird retired. She returned to assume leadership of the department in July. Davis was involved in much of the planning of the current Intercollegiate Athletics Building, which is a cornerstone of the facility renaissance at the College.


            When current Director of Athletics Don Tencher came on board in 1995, Davis resumed her duties as an Associate Athletic Director and focused primarily on athletic compliance, which makes sure every RIC student-athlete is in good standing with the NCAA. Her responsibilities also included overseeing RICís fleet of athletic vans and cars, which allows the teams to travel and the coaches to recruit.


            As for her career, Davis says, ďWhat I am most proud of is that I think I can appreciate and treat all sports equally. I think I have been able to make a positive contribution to Rhode Island College Athletics. One of the biggest changes [in RIC Athletics] is that student-athletes are seeking us out now. We have a good reputation, good programs and our facilities have improved dramatically. Athletics is such a vital part of the College and we work with many other offices on campus. I have enjoyed being part of committees and learning about other areas in higher education.Ē



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