New women’s locker room honors legendary coaches
The newly renovated women’s locker room in the Ohio Northern University Sports Center has been renamed the Helen Spar Ludwig Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics Locker Room, in memory of Helen (Spar) Ludwig, BSEd ’44, H of F ’89, Hon. D. ’89. A special dedication took place on Jan. 19, just prior to the Ohio Northern women’s basketball game against Mount Union.
Known as the founder of ONU women’s athletics, Ludwig worked at the University from 1963 to 1984. At various points in her career, Ludwig helped coach basketball, track, volleyball, tennis and softball. “Mrs. L,” as she was affectionately called, also was the first female inducted into the Northern’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The locker room renovations include 20 new wooden lockers, a flat-screen television with sound system, new carpeting and a completely remodeled bathroom area. In addition to Ludwig, the locker room honors ONU women’s coaching legends Sheila Wallace-Kovalchik and Gayle Lauth.
“All three of these women were pioneers in women’s athletics and the success that we enjoy at ONU today,” explained Kate Witte, head coach of volleyball and assistant athletic director. “This locker room is a tremendous reflection of how much these three coaches – as well as the alumnae that played for them – cared about women’s athletics.”
Wallace-Kovalchik coached the volleyball team from 1969 to 1990 and finished her career with 569 wins and 196 losses. She also led the team to 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, highlighted by a national runner-up finish in 1989. She had 12 straight seasons with 30 or more wins, and she was named OAC Coach-of-the-Year three times.
Lauth served as the head basketball coach from 1972 to 1992 and compiled a record of 274 wins and 150 losses. She was named OAC Coach-of-the-Year in 1988 and won OAC tournament championships in 1988 and 1986. She also served as the head softball coach from 1968 to 2000. She amassed a career softball record of 425-317-2 and was named OAC Coach-of-the-Year on three occasions.
“Gayle Lauth and Sheila Wallace-Kovalchik are astonishing women. They admired Helen’s devoted attitude and took the challenge of increasing the distinction of female athletics at Ohio Northern University,” remarked Katie Weininger, a senior communication arts major from Sycamore, Ohio, during the dedication ceremony. “This generation will continue to build on the foundation Mrs. L started, and the locker room will be used as a visual to motivate and educate future generations.”
The locker room is used by the Northern volleyball, women’s basketball and softball teams and was mostly paid for by alumnae of each sport.
“I believe Mrs. L would be proud, not only of the facility, but in the way that the partnership between our donors and the University’s financial contribution made it possible to complete such an ambitious renovation,” said Thomas Simmons, BSBA ’85, BA ’86, director of athletics. “Meeting and surpassing our financial goal is a testament to what Helen started at ONU.”