Laurier Grads Soar is a multi-part series that has returned for the 2017-18 year. The segment features former Wilfrid Laurier University athletes and student-leaders in the Athletics and Recreation Department, and the success they have enjoyed since leaving Laurier. Written by award-winning journalist David Grossman, different features will be released throughout the year that will emphasize the role Athletics and Recreation played in helping them achieve success.Marcia Powers-Dunlop: Senior Manager of Professional Support Services with the Toronto District School
Marcia Powers-Dunlop admits she’s getting to the stage of her life where all the hype, glory and attention just might be getting a bit overwhelming.
Having never played a varsity sport while studying at Waterloo Lutheran University, renamed in 1973 to Wilfrid Laurier University, she played a much larger role in the development of women’s sport than simply putting on a uniform.
In fact, a woman of sincere integrity and honesty, her legacy will be something more than the dozens of awards, citations and special honors that the native of Nova Scotia had ever dreamed would happen to her while growing up in the community of Lunenburg.
Time after time, Powers-Dunlop continues to be recognized as a leader, a role model and an icon in women’s sport at the university she attended when she left home at the age of 18 to pursue higher education.
“I was never a gifted athlete and my parents and university wouldn’t take chances and let me play sports once they learned that I had a heart murmur that would occasionally show up,” she said. “What they didn’t know back then, is that I learned about sport in another way and it may have been the smartest thing that ever happened.”
Powers-Dunlop focused her attention and strength to advocating, organizing and negotiating on behalf of women and pulling off one significant achievement after another.
“I wasn’t one to take up room on a bench or gym floor just to say I was on a team and to be perfectly honest, there weren’t many opportunities for women in sport back then anyway,” she said.
“There were no women coaches and that job would go to someone like a secretary,” said Powers-Dunlop. “I learned how to be effective, to play the system well and work out deals that would give chances to practice at reasonable times. I even remember offering to babysit the children of staff in return for better use of the gym and facilities for women.”
An honors academic student in her high school days, her preference was to go to a university closer to home. But then came a trip to Waterloo, a place she liked despite not knowing anyone in Ontario.
Powers-Dunlop earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Waterloo Lutheran, then her Bachelor of Education from the University of Toronto and later returned to Waterloo for an Honors degree followed by a Masters in Social Work.
“Laurier has been a good part of my life and the place did so much for me,” said Powers-Dunlop. “I remember showing up the first time and saw this small campus - but the feeling and atmosphere was so special. It was like a family away from your own. You were encouraged to attend, get involved in the experience of being a university student.”
Her involvement in activities and events, from Homecoming to Winter Carnival among a long list of others, was humongous.
Some of the notable successes include being one of the first Presidents of the Women’s Athletic Association to induction in the Laurier Sports Hall of Fame, from two-time winner of the Dean Esther Brandon award to the Female Contributing Most to Athletics to being the recipient of the inaugural Outstanding Women of Laurier awards in the alumni category.
And there’s more – including being appointed to the Laurier Board of Governors.
“So many awards and they’re all very special. People have been good to me,” she said. “I just wanted to be the person who contributed to growing, organizing and fighting for uniforms, equity and challenge for better funding.”
Despite working for the Toronto District School Board for almost four decades, she still finds time for her alma mater and is a financial donor to a variety of events at Laurier. On the volunteer circuit, she’s extensively involved in working with the Girl Guides of Canada to helping those in women’s shelters.
“The skills I learned as a student at Laurier have helped me in my career,” said Powers-Dunlop, who is Senior Manager of Professional Support Services with Canada’s largest school board. “I manage a specialized group of staff and we are called on to play a very important role to students, their families and the system when it involves crisis situations and to help young people achieve things.”
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