Field to Honor Longtime Professor, Coach and Advocate for Women’s and Youth Sports

PHOTO: Mary Diana closeupMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – Mary B. Diana was the driving force in creating women’s sports programs during SUNY Orange’s formative years and the College will honor her lasting legacy on Friday, April 17, when it dedicates a new on-campus softball field in her name between games of a doubleheader against Lackawanna Community College.

The dedication ceremony for “The Mary B. Diana Softball Field” will occur at approximately 4:30 p.m. and will include Joan Wolfe, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees; Dr. William Richards, SUNY Orange president; Edward Diana, Orange County executive and Mary Diana’s nephew; SUNY Orange softball coach Stacey Morris; and current and former players.

The new field, located behind the Physical Education Building near Wawayanda Avenue, will allow the softball team to play on campus for the first time in decades after holding its contests for years at Middletown’s Fancher-Davidge Park.

“This new field will give the Colts, for the first time ever, the type of significant “home field” advantage that matches the national caliber reputation Stacy and her legions of players have worked so hard to establish,” Richards said.

Now in her 16th season at SUNY Orange. Morris has guided the Colts to 12 Region XV titles. Last year, Morris notched her 300th career win at the College and her team fell one round short of reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship tournament.

PHOTO: The new Mary B. Diana Softball Field“We are naming the field in Mary’s honor to commemorate her remarkable contributions to the College during her more-than-two-decade tenure at SUNY Orange. Not only was Mary a respected educator, she was a revered coach, thoughtful administrator and staunch community activist,” Richards added. “We think it is only fitting that this new on-campus softball field bear the name of the woman most responsible for not only organizing women’s sports at the College but also for creating the framework for their growth and success.”

Diana, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ithaca College in 1948 and 1957, respectively, was a part-time professor at SUNY Orange from 1953-56 before being hired full-time in 1956. She remained at SUNY Orange until retiring in 1982.

In February 1954, at the urging of Diana and others, the College’s Board of Trustees approved a petition for a girl’s activity program. During the 1955-56 academic year, Diana formed and coached the College’s first women’s basketball team. During her time at SUNY Orange, she also coached or advised the cheerleaders, bowling team, twirling club, tennis team and field hockey team, as well as several student clubs. She was also a campus leader who was heavily involved in the Faculty Association and Community Services.

“Miss Diana has served OCCC faithfully as an instructor and as a ‘big sister,’ ‘aunt’ and counselor to thousands of boys and girls at the college and community at large,” said long-time athletic director Chris Chachis when Diana was named Middletown Sportsman of the Year in 1973, becoming the first women to win the award.

“It was Miss Diana who started the Junior Bowling Program for boys and girls in Middletown, a program later passed on to Joe Conglosi. It was she who started a girls’ sports program at the college for the entire community, during each Christmas vacation,” Chachis added. “Last, but not least, Miss Diana organized and directed the first high school girls sports program representing all the high schools in this area, sponsored by the Youth Activities Committee of the Middletown Elks Club.”

PHOTO: Mary B. DianaBorn and raised in Middletown, Diana was an outspoken advocate for equality in women’s and girl’s sports. She was a three-time member of the Middletown Recreation Commission and played an important role in the development of Women’s City League softball and basketball in Middletown. She organized sports officiating clinics for women and developed women’s varsity athletic tournaments in Region XV of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

An outstanding athlete in her own right, Diana was a low handicap golfer and above average bowler. She won the Orange County Tournament of Champions (golf) twice, Mid-Hudson Golf Association Championships five times and nine club titles at the Orange County Golf Club in Middletown. In 1961, she won the trophy offered by the President of the New York State Women’s Bowling Association for having bowled the highest women’s score in the state that year, a 672 series in the state tournament at Niagara Falls.

Diana attended all-expense paid tryout with the South Bend (Ind.) Blue Sox of the Midwest Professional Women’s Softball League in 1949. She was offered a contract as shortstop and catcher, but was unable to get time off from her duties as a teacher in the Middletown school system and had to decline. She taught in Middletown schools from September 1948 to June 1956.

In addition to naming the softball field in her honor, the College has also established a Mary B. Diana Fund to be administered by the Educational Foundation of SUNY Orange. For more information on the fund, or to make a contribution, contact the Foundation at (845) 341-4769.

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940