Donna Sullivan Day set for June 10

A special tribute honoring Seymour’s Donna Sullivan for her influence coaching girls high school sports at Seymour and Trinity Lutheran is planned for late spring.

The gathering is set for June 10, and it is hoped hundreds of players Sullivan coached will turn out for the event, said Alice Laskowski, a former player from the 1970s and one of the organizers.

Sullivan, 75, competed in various sports at Indiana University between 1966 and 1970 and was the first Owls coach at Seymour after the passage of Title IX 50 years ago helped jump-start opportunities for girls in public schools around the country. Sullivan still serves as an assistant coach at Trinity.

“She has spent 50 years promoting girls and women in sports,” Laskowski said.

Sullivan said the event, where she is scheduled to speak, should be thrilling for her and others attending.

“I think it’s a great day for a lot of people,” said Sullivan, who has become increasingly excited by the still-in-the-developing program. “It’s going to be a great time for everybody.”

The idea for a Sullivan event stemmed from talks Laskowski and her old Seymour basketball teammate, Jane “Jihani” Laupus, shared about possibly holding a reunion. They began talking to others, Laskowski said, and “It exploded.”

When it became clear they were discussing a gathering that might attract anywhere from 500 people on up, Laskowski said their search for a venue seemed to be logical — the Seymour High School gymnasium. Only the school facility is scheduled to have air conditioning installed, she said.

The June event is now slated for the Seymour Middle School cafeteria. Broken down between speeches and what Laskowski called “a showcase” exhibition basketball game between Seymour and Trinity, details of the celebration are still being hammered out.

The goal for now is to spread the word among all former players who came under Sullivan’s tutelage with as many as possible setting aside the date, as well as other coaches, former co-workers and the like.

“We’re inviting the community,” Laskowski said.

It is hoped June 10 will be Donna Sullivan Day in Seymour, Laskowski said. Sullivan is a member of the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

It is also hoped that the keynote speaker will be Teri Moren. Moren, who is in the midst of leading the current IU women’s basketball team to its eighth straight 20-win season, played her high school ball for Sullivan with the Owls.

The one threat to Moren’s attendance is if she is involved in Team USA’s international schedule, something she has participated in before.

“I think it’s great,” Moren said of the plans to honor Sullivan. “It’s awesome. Hopefully, I can be there. She has coached so many people. She deserves it. I hope I can be there.”

“There” may be more than one place. Not only will events be conducted in the middle school cafeteria, there may be a second party, of sorts, at an outdoor venue under a big tent, Laskowski said, where former players and their families and fans can mingle and spend time with Sullivan at the end of the day.

When Laskowski and Laupus first spoke of a tribute, they did so quietly but quickly realized they could not keep the event a secret and reached out to Sullivan to bring her into the loop.

“She was overwhelmed we would consider it,” Laskowski said of her former coach’s first reaction.

Then Sullivan embraced the suggestion with enthusiasm. The next thought turned to an appropriate gift to Sullivan to mark the occasion. Laskowski said Sullivan was asked, “What can we do for you to keep your legacy going years after you’re gone?”

The agreed-upon solution was establishing a Jackson County community Donna Sullivan Scholarship.

“It can continue to influence girls and women in sports,” Laskowski said.