The inaugural Alumni Speaker Series celebrates 50 years of women at SCU—with Mary Frances Callan '65, M.A. '67, an educator among the first class of undergrad women, and Brandi Chastain '91, a soccer star who scored the penalty shot heard ’round the world.
She wore a skirt with nylons every day, because slacks weren’t allowed. A strict bed check occurred every night at 10 p.m. And she only had 15 minutes to travel between Villa Maria—the off-campus apartments for women undergrads—and the library. If she took any longer, she’d be questioned by her house parents.
“Things were a lot different back then,” says Mary Frances Callan ’65, M.A. ’67, who was one of two women guest speakers to share her memories of campus life at SCU’s inaugural Alumni Speaker Series event on April 4.
Callan, who was part of the first women’s undergraduate class, says, “About six months into being here, they put bars on the windows downstairs in Villa Maria and they told us that it was going to keep us safer. But it’s because some of us figured out how to get out after 10 p.m. So all it did was force people to climb out of the second story window. It was the best athletics we had!”
"For a moment, these girls get to see people who look like themselves and encourage them to dream and do big things." —Brandi Chastain
Aside from the societal differences, Callan says some things remain the same even after all these years: Like getting together at the Bronco Corral—the gathering place for both boarders and day students—and the feeling that, as a Santa Clara graduate, you could make a difference and help the community you live in.
“Women have helped move this University forward—academically and socially,” Callan says.
After earning her master’s degree at Santa Clara, Callan went on to have a successful career in education as a teacher, counselor, and administrator at schools in Louisiana, Korea, Oregon, and Colorado. She was the superintendent of the Milpitas Unified School District, the Pleasanton Unified School District, and the Palo Alto Unified School District over a span of 14 years. She now coaches new and aspiring superintendents, assists with superintendent searches, and is co-developing curriculum for administration. She is co-author of Achieving Success for New and Aspiring Superintendents. Callan also serves on boards including the school board of Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA) Cristo Rey [see a story on ICA in the Spring 2012 Santa Clara Magazine], the Board of Regents of Santa Clara University, and the Keenan Health Advisory Board.
Making history on the field
Brandi Chastain ’91 is renowned for her stellar soccer career and indelibly linked to a moment in soccer history. It was the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, in front of a record crowd of 90,185 fans, Chastain scored on a penalty kick to lead the United States to victory over China. Her ecstatic celebration—falling to her knees, whipping off her sports jersey—created an iconic image seen all over the world, including on the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated.
She graduated from Santa Clara with a degree in communication, but it’s no surprise that her fondest memories as a student took place on the soccer field. After all, she helped take the women’s team to two Final Four appearances in 1989 and 1990. For her part at the April 4 panel, she recalled how the student body would rally around the athletic teams and the stadium would be packed with students who came to cheer on the soccer players.
But, she says, that’s not what she sees now. “There’s a gap between the athletic and academic side of campus, and fewer and fewer students are attending games these days,” she says. “I remember as clear as day playing in the game that sent us to the NCAA playoffs, and the stadium was full. There were some local people and parents, but mostly students.”
In fact, Buck Shaw Stadium holds the record for highest attendance at a women’s outdoor collegiate sporting event. In 1996, fans turned out en masse to watch the NCAA Women’s College Cup (Division I soccer finals). The stadium seating capacity was temporarily expanded to 8,800, and both days it was sold out.
“That for me is the spirit of Santa Clara. Everyone was celebrating,” Chastain says. “I’m trying to find a way to build that up again, because there’s a great amount of pride when your team does well, whether you played one minute or sat in the stands.”
Chastain also played on the 1991 and 2003 U.S. World Cup teams, and she won a gold medal in the 1996 and 2004 Olympics and a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics. She played for the San Jose Cyber Rays in the Women’s United Soccer Association and, more recently, San Jose’s FC Gold Pride. She is currently a commentator for the Women’s World Cup and has a front-row view of what’s what with SCU women’s soccer, which she assists as a volunteer coach.
“Going on to being in the World Cup and the Olympic Games have all been products of the lessons I’ve learned here,” she says. “Some of that has been from being on the field, but also being in the classroom and watching how people take care of each other. Because to be successful in a team sport you have to really understand the dynamic of who is good at what. How they work together. When they’re not their best, how do you help them?”
Chastain is also the co-founder of the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative (BAWSI), where female student-athletes from high schools, community colleges, and universities in the Bay Area mentor young girls on the playground. These girls usually attend Title 1 schools, which means at least 51 percent of the families are on the poverty line. “We give them mentors and women to look up to,” says Chastain. “For a moment, these girls get to see people who look like themselves and encourage them to dream and do big things.”
Mary Frances Callan agrees. “There is research out there that shows if you really want to move families out of poverty, educate the women. Women will make sure that their children get an education. And that is something that I think is vital in this country, because a well-educated populace is what’s going to make a difference for all of us.”