Although most sports fans were gathering around their TV sets in their living rooms or making tailgate food in their kitchens in anticipation of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, there were about 100 guests who gathered together at John Paul Jones Arena for a sports event of a different sort.

The U.Va. Women’s Center, alongside U.Va. Athletics, celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day with a reception prior to the women’s basketball game against Clemson, as well as acknowledged the day during half-time. The day is an annual, nationwide campaign that promotes accomplishments in athletics and brings awareness to issues females face.

After some refreshments and conversation at the reception, the director of the U.Va. Women’s Center, Sharon Davie, spoke to the audience, reminding all that “[although] there have been many dramatic changes since Title IX and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, we are far from being finished with the journey to equality.”

To localize this national event, the Women’s Center and the Athletics department annually recognized alumna who were student-athletes at U.Va. and who have continued on the “journey to equality” with women’s sports. This year’s theme was “Celebrating Lifelong Leadership in Women’s Athletics” and the honoree was Amy Mitchell Griffin, a 1998 U.Va. graduate and former volleyball player. This was the first year the reception took place in the dining hall of John Paul Jones Arena.

In her speech at the reception, Griffin specifically addresses current student-athletes in attendance by encouraging them to take the lessons they learned as a teammates with them after graduation.

“I just hope when the women of [the University of] Virginia leave the court, the pool and the fields today, they remember what it feels like to be on a team and they too will do their part to make a difference for future generations, in any way they can, to make it better for the next group that comes up behind us,” she said.

Griffin, a Texas native, was the captain of the U.Va. volleyball team and a two-time MVP. As an active member of the Virginia Athletics Foundation (VAF), she has remained committed to helping student-athletes. In the past decade, she has generously supported her alma mater by contributing toward new sand volleyball courts and the renovation of the track and field facility.

Athletics Director Craig Littlepage emphasized the impact that Griffin has had on U.Va. Athletics.

“But it’s not just her philanthropic activities that we celebrate today because if we did so, we would focus only on a part of what she does and what motivates her,” he said. “Amy is someone who is connected, she is involved and she is interested in how her support actually does help people – particularly the student-athletes and the coaches who represent the University.”

After graduating from U.Va., Griffin worked for “Sports Illustrated” magazine. She later became involved with education reform through the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and iMentor, organizations dedicated to empowering students who are economically disadvantaged. Griffin also coaches a state championship winning team in Manhattan. She lives in New York City with her husband, 1985 U.Va. graduate John A. Griffin, and their children.

Griffin’s two daughters attended the event, watching their mother speak with passion about her experience as a student-athlete at U.Va. At the conclusion of her speech, one of her daughters excitedly ran up to her and hugged her.

Fourth-year student Emily Lloyd attended the reception and the basketball game afterward, as a Women’s Center intern for “Iris” magazine as well as a student-athlete. As a swimmer since she was 8 years old and now in her last year of being on a sports team at U.Va., Lloyd particularly found Griffin’s words inspirational.

“Her speech [… ] really forced me to feel how much she truly cares about women’s athletics at U.Va. and how important the Athletics program was to her development as a woman,” Lloyd said. “[… ]I could really relate to her personally, looking back at how far I have come since my first year and the role that athletics played in my development as well. It is so amazing to me how generous and willing she is to help any athlete, particularly female athletes, at U.Va. in order to give them the best possible experience here.”

By Agnes Filipowski