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Rice Announces First Women's Head Coaching Endowment In Program History

Posted: May 12, 2023 -- 11:07 a.m. CT

Thursday, May 11, Rice Athletics announced enhancements to the endowed fund to support the women's basketball coaching staff, elevating the existing assistant coaching endowment to a head coaching endowment. It is the first women's head coaching endowment in the history of Rice Athletics.

"This historic endowment highlights the importance of women's athletics at Rice and acknowledges the success of our basketball program," said Joe Karlgaard, Director of Athletics, Recreation, and Lifetime Fitness. "We are grateful to those who stepped forward to help make this happen in recognition of Shelley Pennington and in support of our outstanding coach, Lindsay Edmonds."

The Shelley Pennington Assistant Women's Basketball Coach Endowment, the first endowment of a coaching position in women's athletics at Rice, was established last fall through a $1 million gift from the estate of Shelley Pennington. Spurred by the gift from Pennington's estate, $2 million in additional funds were raised through the generosity of multiple donors, including Lynn Laverty Elsenhans '78, Barbara and David Gibbs, Eyvette and Tom Hetherington '94, Walter E. Greenberg '78, Karen Ostrum George '77 and Larry George, and Vicki Whamond Bretthauer '79 and Neil Bretthauer. The combined funds will create the Shelley Pennington and Friends Head Women's Basketball Coach Endowment.

"Shelley Pennington embodied values that have become a hallmark of Rice Women's Basketball on and off the court: teamwork, perseverance, and scholarship," said Elsenhans. "It is an honor to be among the friends that honor her by establishing this endowed coaching position at Rice."

The endowment is the third for Rice Athletics head coaches. The Dunlevie Family Head Football Coach endowment was created in 2018 and the Bixby Family Head Baseball Coach endowment was announced in March of 2022.

"I am truly humbled to be the Shelly Pennington and Friends Head Women's Basketball Coach," said Edmonds, whose 23 wins last season were the second-most by Rice women's basketball coach in her second season, "It is such an honor to be the first women's head coaching position to be endowed in the history of Rice Athletics. I am very grateful to Shelley Pennington's family and friends for their commitment to our program as well as their unwavering belief in the future of Rice Women's Basketball."

Shelley Pennington '78 played basketball during the founding years of women's intercollegiate athletics at Rice. She was a three-year letter winner from 1976-78 and in 1977 was named the third winner of the Joyce Pounds Hardy Award which recognizes the Owls' most outstanding female student-athlete. Pennington was a member of Rice's Navy ROTC program and completed Naval flight training as part of the second class of women who were admitted to the program.

In 1985, she resigned from active duty in the Navy but continued to serve in the Naval Reserve. After leaving active duty, Pennington flew commercial airliners for TWA for 10 years before she was recruited to join UPS where she rose to the position of Chief of Pilot Safety for 757 and 767 aircraft until her retirement in 2012. She remained active in athletics and became an avid distance runner, following in her father's footsteps and competing in multiple Boston Marathons.

In addition to her athletic career at Rice, Pennington served as President of Jones College. She battled ovarian cancer and passed away in June of 2021. Her friends from Rice created the Shelley Pennington Memorial Award, which is presented annually to a junior or senior at Jones College that demonstrates the qualities that she personified – leadership, team play, and the ability to bring out the best in those around her.

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