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Ed Diana Partakes in Ceremony at SUNY Orange's Mary B. Diana Softball Field

PHOTO: Ed Diana Throws First PitchMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – When SUNY Orange officially dedicated the Mary B. Diana Softball Field on its Middletown campus last April (April 17, 2009), Orange County Executive Edward Diana was recuperating in the hospital from an illness and could not attend.

On Thursday (April 8, 2010), nearly one year later, Ed Diana was able to officially celebrate the creation of the on-campus softball field named in honor of his aunt, who was a long-time professor, coach and mentor at the College. Diana tossed out the first pitch Thursday prior to a doubleheader between the Colts and Westchester Community College.

"I'm very proud to finally be here," Diana said. "Before I became the County Executive, I was a gym teacher by trade, and that was because of my aunt's influence. Long before Title IX, she was a champion for women."

Mary 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.”

Born 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 administered by the SUNY Orange Foundation. 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