First Class

Gail Ramsay’s playing and coaching prowess earned her a place in the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame.

Gail Ramsay

Women’s college squash has long been dominated by Ivy League schools, so Penn State’s third-place finish in the 1979 national team championship was notable—particularly because the entire team consisted of Gail Ramsay ’80 A&A. Ramsay, who won four individual national titles for the Lions before embarking on a coaching career, was inducted into the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Philadelphia on April 2. A tennis star at Penn State, Ramsay often had to get creative to find squash competitors on campus. She honed her skills against male faculty who were accomplished players, such as Ron Smith, Donald Rung, and Richard Pencek ’66 MEd H&HD.

“She taught me how to play,” says former Penn State tennis coach Candace Royer ’71, ’82 MS H&HD, who took the job the year Ramsay arrived on campus.

Royer recalls the time a male student —a star in another sport—challenged Ramsay to a match. After she defeated him, Pencek informed the man that the right-handed Ramsay had played with her left hand so as to not embarrass him. “She was one of the strongest mentally prepared athletes I’ve ever coached,” Royer says. “Gail lost some matches, but she had to be beaten. … she never gave up.”

Ramsay won two U.S. doubles titles and seven national mixed doubles titles, then coached the squash and tennis teams at Williams College for six years before taking the head squash coaching position at Princeton, where she has led the Tigers to five national titles in 28 seasons. For the past 20 years, the individual national women’s collegiate champion has received the Ramsay Cup, named in her honor.

Ramsay, the only man or woman to win four individual college championships, says of the sport, “I’ve collected so many amazing relationships and competitive experiences over the years. It’s been a major part of my life.”