HANOVER, N.H. — A Dartmouth women’s basketball icon returns to campus on Jan. 28 as the college will honor Chris Wielgus, thanks to the generosity of the alumni, with the dedication of the Christina H. Wielgus Lounge located in the Evans Basketball Suite.
Wielgus and her family, along with the Friends of Dartmouth Basketball, have invited Big Green fans and the public at large to be on hand for the dedication ceremony at the Hanover Inn at 10:30 a.m., as well as a celebration lunch at noon, free of charge. To register for the event, please visit www.DartmouthSports.com/WielgusLounge.
“This is a fitting and well deserved honor for Chris,” said Dartmouth College Trustee Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82, an All-America student-athlete for Wielgus. “She has been an inspiration, mentor and role model for so many women throughout her distinguished career. She has had a lasting impact on all of us who have had the privilege of calling her coach and now dear friend. I am thrilled that Chris’ family, former players and the community can share in this special recognition of her impact on Dartmouth basketball.”
Wielgus, the winningest coach of any women’s program at Dartmouth with a career record of 393-342 (.535), guided Dartmouth to 12 Ivy League titles, seven trips to the NCAA Tournament and two more to the WNIT during her two stints spanning 28 seasons as the Big Green head coach. Five of her student-athletes were named the Ivy League Player of the Year a total of seven times, and she coached eight conference Rookies of the Year and 81 All-Ivy League selections, 28 of which were named to the first team.
“Chris Wielgus put Dartmouth College Women’s Basketball on the map, both within the Ivy League as well as nationally,” said former Dartmouth Athletics Director Josie Harper ’47a. “She was the early answer to the question, ‘Would you rather be smart or athletic?’ — Dartmouth College and Chris said both. She is an extraodinary teacher/coach combination, with the unique ability to be a great bench and game coach. Chris is highly respected in the Dartmouth community and around the nation.”
Wielgus arrived on campus before the 1976-77 season and quickly built a power in the Ivy League, winning four consecutive conference crowns from 1980-83 and earning the first-ever Ivy League bid to the NCAA Tournament in 1983. She left after the 1983-84 campaign, only to return nine years later and immediately pick up where she left off, winning the league title in both 1993-94 and ‘94-95 with the latter producing another appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Green nearly pulled off an incredible upset in the first round as a 14 seed, leading Virginia with 6:28 left before succumbing, 71-68.
Wielgus and Dartmouth finished atop the Ivy League in consecutive years (1998-99, ‘99-2000) to earn bids to the NCAA Tournament each time, giving the defending national champion Purdue Boilermakers a terrific scare in the first round of 2000 tournament. Although the 13th-seeded Big Green fell behind by 20 in the first half, they stormed back after halftime to take a one-point lead with 4:42 on the clock. The score was tied at 66 with 2:18 to play, but Purdue scored the final four points to stave off the upset.
“Chris Wielgus was more than a coach; she was a teacher of the game,” stated Aggie Kurtz, the first woman appointed to the Dartmouth athletics staff following coeducation at the college in 1972, coaching field hockey, squash and lacrosse. “With a combination of walk-ons and recruited athletes, she gave us an example of coaching at its best. She gave us pride, humility, dignity, a lot of laughs and many big wins.”
For five straight seasons (2004-05 through 2008-09), Wielgus led Dartmouth to the postseason while earning four conference crowns along the way. In the first of those seasons, the Big Green tied for the top spot with Harvard and defeated the Crimson in a playoff, 75-61, to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
The following year, there was a three-way tie atop the standings between Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown, and the Green defeated both in the playoffs to once again garner the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a 14 seed, the Big Green faced Rutgers and fought the Scarlet Knights to the bitter end, missing a three-pointer in the final minute that would have tied the score. Dartmouth lost by five, 63-58, and finished the season with a 23-7 record, its best under Wielgus.
The Big Green played in the Women’s Postseason NIT in both 2006-07 and ‘07-08 before returning to the NCAA Tournament after winning the league title outright with a 13-1 mark in 2008-09.
“Chris Wielgus built a nationally recognized Ivy League basketball dynasty here at Dartmouth,” the Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens said. “Her “on-court” success is only overshadowed by the profound impact she has had on the lives of hundreds of Dartmouth women as their coach, mentor, role model and friend.”
A member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Athletics Hall of Fame at Springfield College — from where she graduated in 1974 — Wielgus is also an inductee in Dartmouth’s Wearers of the Green.