Even the most memorable runs in sports must come to an end.
After nearly five decades, Kathy Meehan, who served in a variety of roles in the St. John’s University, Jamaica, Athletics Department, is set to retire at the end of the spring semester. Throughout her time in Queens, she has been a pioneer for women’s sports as well as an influential figure in the growth of the university’s vibrant sports program.
For Meehan, her journey into sports administration began at the young age of 10. While attending Maria Regina parish in Seaford, L.I., and playing pretty much every sport, she realized that her brothers were all able to play organized Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball, but she could not since there were no parish girls’ teams. With encouragement from her mother, Meehan went to the pas- tor to ask why there were no girls’ hoops teams.
The pastor responded that if young Kathy could find the girls, the parish would form a team. Sure enough, Meehan rounded up her basketball buddies, and a fifth-grade CYO team was born. Think of this as the unofficial start of Meehan’s career in sports advocacy for women student-athletes.
From there, the Massapequa native went on to star for the basketball team at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, Syosset, L.I. Since both her parents graduated from St. John’s, her college decision was rather easy. Even though St. John’s at the time did not have a women’s basketball team, the school had a club program, so Meehan was excited that she would still be able to pursue her passion.
Prior to the start of the 1974-1975 school year, the late legendary athletic director Jack Kaiser oversaw the elevation of four of St. John’s club sports to varsity status following the Title IX decision: fencing, swimming, tennis, and basketball. As such, Meehan was a member of the Johnnies’ first-ever varsity level women’s basketball team. Not only was she a member, but she was also the school’s first Outstanding Female Student-Athlete Award winner.
Upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education, Meehan planned to teach and coach basketball back at her high school alma mater. At the same time, Vicki Kress, who was serving as the director of women’s athletics and the basket- ball coach at St. John’s, was given permission by administration to hire an assistant. After initially turning down the offer, Meehan accepted the job, even though it wasn’t in line with her plan.
“Just like I tell the student-athletes now, just because you have a plan in place doesn’t mean that’s the plan,” said Meehan, who later became a parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima, Jackson Heights. “Always be open to hearing and listening to new things that you never thought could happen.”
As she embarked on this new chapter, Meehan originally thought she would stay a few years while getting her graduate degree. Every few years though, it seemed new, exciting opportunities opened up for her. A “few years” soon became 48 years of dedicated service to the St. John’s athletics community.
In addition to her many roles at St. John’s — the most current of which has been as Senior Deputy Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator — Meehan was also instrumental in the creation of the Big East Conference. She has served on numerous NCAA and Big East committees, most notably the Division I Women’s Basketball Over- sight Committee.
“In athletics, no two days are alike,” Meehan said. “Every day is different, and every day it’s about our students and providing them the best opportunities to develop and contribute to society.”
In 1991, Meehan was inducted into the St. John’s Athletics Hall of Fame. During her tenure, she also received the Vincentian Mission Award, given to a staff member who embodies the mission of the university through purposeful and sustained service to others.
As the spring semester comes to an end, Meehan knows she will remain connected to the St. John’s community even in her retirement. The school has been a part of her life for almost all her life, so surely she will be around to assist in the transition process.
“St. John’s has been my family, and it will continue to be my family,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve been blessed to work with fabulous people, and I never felt like I had to get up and go to work.”
The next chapter for Meehan involves traveling and spending more time with her family: her husband, Louis, and two sons, Brian and Tymon — all three of whom are St. John’s grads — as well as her six grandchildren with a seventh on the way.
The lesson learned from Meehan’s life and career is that even if you think you have a set plan, God is the one who truly controls your destiny. If it’s meant to be, God will provide you with exciting opportunities for growth — some of which you never thought would be possible.
When Meehan began her journey, women’s sports at St. John’s did not even exist. Her dedicated commitment for 48 years has led to the blossoming of nine varsity-level women’s sports programs at school.
That’s the perfect example of living out God’s plan.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.