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Lessons from 35 Years of "Relentless Dedication"

Remarks from our 2019 National Girls & Women in Sports Honoree, Jane Miller

It seems like just yesterday that I told someone retirement wasn’t even on my radar. So much for that.

I want to thank Abby and her staff at the Women’s Center, not only for hosting this reception, but for the wonderful work you do at the University for women and men, alike. You change lives.

I also want to thank the NGWS Day Committee for selecting me to represent girls and women in sport today.  I am honored.

How wonderful is it to watch the athleticism of today’s female athletes? How wonderful is it that little girls now have female role models when those of my generation only had men? How wonderful is it that our own Carla Williams is the first female African American Athletics Director of a power five school?

As we celebrate these accomplishments, we must remember the true pioneers like Barbara Kelly who started the women’s athletic program here at UVA, Lee Morrison who did the same at James Madison, Claudia Dotson who was the first female leader in the VA High School League and responsible for starting so many programs for boys and girls. There are so many others. I was fortunate that my college basketball coach, Jeanne Rowlands, was a trailblazer at the National level and a major influence in my life.

We celebrate them all and we celebrate our progress while knowing we still have work to do.

It is great to see so many colleagues, coaches, student-athletes, alumni and friends in the room. Thank you for being here and for all you have done for me during my career. I want to especially thank Craig Littlepage for giving me the opportunity to be an administrator. Craig has been my mentor, friend and colleague for over 25 years. You are admired by many, Craig, and you will always be special to me.

I also want to acknowledge members of my family. Deb, my brother John, sister in law Bev, and my nephew Michael. It has been so wonderful to share my passion for sport and UVA with you and the rest of our family.

Since I made the decision to retire, I have become more reflective. I suppose everyone does. I realize I have been in a classroom my whole life. My first lessons came from my Mom and Dad… be respectful, do the right thing, do your best and play by the rules.

And here, where I have spent over half my life, the lessons kept coming.

Superstitions are over rated.

I hate to say I had a number of superstitions as many athletes and coaches do,… one frightful moment happened a few days before our first final four… I was trying on outfits. There was a mirror leaning against the wall. I looked away for only a second but when I turned around I saw that mirror fall to the floor and smash. That was it. Bad luck. Four days later we won the 1991 National Championship. Superstitions are over rated.

Do what needs to be done

When I first started as the field hockey coach we were transitioning from grass to the turf at Scott Stadium. The only problem, there were no lines. So my assistants and I went to Roses before every game to buy as many bottles of baby powder as we could so we could line the filed. My long time assistant Julie Dayton is here today and I am sure you remember that well Julie. My we have come a long way. So, do what needs to be done.

Ask questions.

One of my aha moments came in a conversation with April Heinrichs, our former women’s soccer coach. We had just rolled out a policy on the number of pages in each sport media guide. A few days later April walked into my office and said “Jane, women’s soccer needs more pages in our media guide.” I reminded her of our new policy and that it wasn’t possible. She stood up, walked to the door, turned around and said, “You didn’t even ask why it was important.” Ask questions.

Really great leaders have empathy.

As I look back, I remember Craig and Margaret Littlepage committing acts of kindness by delivering meals to sick employees or their family members. Today, when I sit in meetings with Carla, even in the toughest conversations there is always empathy. Really great leaders have empathy.

When you fall, others lift you up.

We will never forget Yeardley Love (ever) and the way the University came together – Pat Lampkin, Allen Groves, Carol Wood and others guided us through that tragic time. It was a time of great grief and they eased our pain and shock by their loving attention to an horrific event. When you fall, others lift you up.

Treasure the unsung heroes.

James White was our beloved bus driver. He always got us to our destination safely and with a smile. He is still driving and recently took us to the airport for a WBB trip. I always look forward to a hug and conversation with James. Becky David, Carla’s Executive Assistant. always takes care of us. No one really knows how much she does. She is amazing. I’ve learned there really is such a thing as an indispensable person – that’s Becky. Treasure the unsung heroes.

There are many more lessons that I would like to share but we would be here all day and we have a very important basketball game coming up.

As I close out my career, I know this department is in great hands. Carla has assembled an outstanding team of professionals and put a bold plan on the table for our department. At a time when we need strong female leaders, her style checks all the boxes. I am so thankful for my time with you, Carla.

Finally, for those of you who know me, you know I love my books. So, I will leave you with a quote from my first book, Winnie the Pooh. It is a little worn. I’ve had it since I was five years old. Pooh said, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I am saying goodbye to the everyday work but the wonderful relationships… those with all of you… the love I have for this department and the University will be with me forever.

I am blessed! WAHOOWA!


(Enjoy more photos from the National Girls & Women in Sports events honoring Jane Miller, the women's basketball team's victory over Duke, and the youth sports festival for local kids hosted by UVA athletes here.) 

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