Early History of Emerson Athletics: Part 2

Continued from Part 1

In the late 1940s, the Recreation Club was disbanded and the Athletic Association was founded. This new student organization focused on providing sports activities for male students. In 1947, the group founded a men’s basketball team to participate in intercollegiate games, as well as a cheerleading squad composed mostly of female students.

an image of the Emerson College men's basketball team in 1947–1948

Emerson’s first male basketball team, founded during the 1947–1948 academic year.

The following year, junior varsity and freshmen squads were added to this program, as well as a baseball team. The College mascot during this time was the panther, so the teams were known as the Purple Panthers. Together with several other colleges, the Panthers created the Greater Boston Small College Conference in 1951, one of the earliest conferences created in the Boston area.

With the departure of the Recreation Club, there were few opportunities for female students to participate in sports. This was compounded when mandatory athletic courses for women were removed from the curriculum in the early 1950s. In order to provide a space for female students in the sports scene, several women worked independently to create their own basketball team. Although the team was created in 1951 at the latest, it was not until 1958 that the team was included in the Emersonian.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Emerson’s sports program expanded. A wrestling team debuted during the 1959–1960 school year, and a full-time faculty member was assigned to be the first athletic advisor for the College. The following year, this faculty member, Charles “Ted” Philips, became the athletic director, with Carol “Pete” Eastman working as the assistant director. It was also during this year that the Girls’ Athletic League (G.A.L.) was created by a group of students to sponsor women’s basketball and bowling. Over the next few years, the League worked closely with the Athletic Association to promote sports at the College. During this time, they expanded their offerings to other sports, including softball, tennis, volleyball, and swimming.

James Peckham, Emerson College wrestling coach and athletic director of the newly formed athletics department, pictured in 1966.

During the 1965–1966 academic year, the Girls’ Athletic League became accredited so that female students could receive college credit for participating in their fitness programs, some of which were offered at the YWCA on Clarendon Street. It was during this same year that the Athletics Department was formed and new facilities became available for male sports teams. The school mascot was officially changed to the Lions, and the first season of formal, school sponsored–sports began at Emerson. Although it would take several more years for female sports to be included, the Girls’ Athletic League continued to operate and meet the needs of female students.

Photo of Emerson College's Girls' Athletic League from 1961

The founding members of the Girls’ Athletic League (G.A.L.), founded during the 1960–1961 academic year.

Jenn Williams (Archives)