by Tom Utescher
Last Friday evening, past and present athletes, coaches, and administrators from Chestnut Hill College assembled at Commonwealth Chateau on the college’s SugarLoaf Campus for the induction of the first members of the newly-established Athletic Hall of Fame.
The individuals chosen for the inaugural class were longtime coach Betty Shellenberger (1950-1977), and administrators and coaches Betty Buckley (1942-1977), Lorraine Busch (1977-1990), and Janice Rensimer Kuklick (1977-present). The college’s archery teams from the 1950’s were also enshrined.
It makes sense that all of the 2011 inductees were women or women’s teams, given the history of the college. The Sisters of St. Joseph founded all-girls Mount St. Joseph Academy at Germantown and Northwestern Aves. in 1858, and opened a women’s college on the same site in 1924. Eventually the two institutions outgrew their shared campus, and in 1961 the Academy moved just across Stenton Ave. to its current location. In the fall of 2003, Chestnut Hill College began to accept male undergraduate students and launched its first men’s athletic teams.
The college had not yet celebrated its 20th anniversary when Betty Buckley arrived, but some of the traditions she established endure to this day, such as the swimming test that all students still must pass before graduation. She ran the physical education program and fostered the development of a variety of intercollegiate and intramural athletic teams. She also coached badminton, field hockey, swimming, and tennis.
Margaret Fleming S.S.J., a 1956 graduate of the college who later served as Dean of Students, spoke at last week’s ceremony as a representative of the CHC archery teams of the 1950’s. Led by captain Patricia “Holly” Hollingsworth, Chestnut Hill went undefeated four years in a row, dominating competitions in the Philadelphia area and achieving success in regional and national events, as well.
Betty Shellenberger is a proud daughter of Germantown who is known in field hockey and lacrosse circles across the United States and abroad. Her lacrosse playing career began at Agnes Irwin School and extends back to the earliest days of interscholastic competition in the sport. She was not only one of the first, but one of the best, eventually earning a place in the national hall of fame in two different sports, lacrosse and field hockey.
Later, she served as an administrator for the national governing bodies of both sports, and also became an internationally certified umpire. Her long tenure as badminton, hockey, and lacrosse coach at Chestnut Hill raised the athletic profile of the college. At age 90, she still officiates athletic contests, and is an active golfer.
When Betty Buckley stepped down as CHC athletic director in 1977, Busch and Kuklick (then Janice Rensimer) arrived to run the physical education department and divided between them most of the coaching duties for the intercollegiate teams. When they started out, Busch’s basketball teams still played much larger schools such as St. Joseph’s and Villanova, while Kuklick’s badminton squads not only scheduled collegiate rivals, but also played a few local high school teams (an NCAA taboo today).
The college was a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the old Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (the AIAW), and Busch’s basketball and softball teams, in particular, enjoyed considerable success in the 1970’s and 80’s. As A.D., she saw the college make strides in many areas, including the proud acquisition of the school’s first team van. Before the advent of the “little brown bus,” coaches crammed athletes into private automobiles (usually their own) to travel to away games.
A highly-qualified swimming teacher, Busch was also a certified scuba diving instructor, and taught members of the Marine Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department right in the Chestnut Hill pool.
Kuklick had gone to high school up the road at Plymouth Whitemarsh. Her lacrosse teams at PW and at West Chester University never lost a game. In her first stint as a defense wing on the national team, the United States completed an undefeated sweep through Great Britain, becoming the first American side ever to defeat the All-England Team on its home ground. Kuklick’s U.S. teammate, Jane Diamond, would become the first director of girls athletics at William Penn Charter School.
While Kuklick was later inducted into the USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame, many of the students she coached Chestnut Hill had never even played the sport in high school, and had to be taught from scratch as college freshmen. Nevertheless, Kuklick’s clubs won their division in the PAIAW 14 times, and her hockey teams excelled, as well. Succeeding Busch as athletic director, she held that post until 2004, and remains a Phys Ed instructor at the college to this day.