Trinity Celebrates Stender’s Vision for Young Women


What does Sister Michelle do when she reads about an accomplished woman in the world of business and basketball whose dreams were inspired by attending an all-girls high school?

IMG_3705That’s right. She calls her up. Stender became involved with Trinity in 2005 when Sister Michelle Germanson read an article in which Stender mentioned the benefits of having attended an all-girls high school. Keen to tap into Stender’s experience as a corporate executive and leader in launching Chicago’s WNBA basketball franchise, Sister Michelle invited her to join Trinity’s Presidential Advisory Council.  The PAC is a group of experts from a variety of fields who serve as a sounding board for ideas related to Trinity’s growth and success.

Margaret Stender will be honored at Trinity’s Bal Dominique Scholarship Fundraiser, set for March 23, 2013 at The Drake, Chicago. Stender played college ball at University of Richmond where she received a BA degree in Education. She went on to earn an MBA from the University of Virginia. Stender cofounded the WNBA’s Chicago Sky basketball team, and served six years as president and CEO. In between she held executive positions in marketing and management with Quaker Oats and Pepsi Co. Currently a minority owner of the Sky and co-owner of Flow Basketball Academy, she has a powerful message for young women about integrating mind, body, and spirit.

In this year of celebration, as Trinity marks its 95th anniversary, the country reflects on the 40th anniversary of the Title IX bill, Stender’s vision of girl power is clearly in focus.  Title IX was created toIMG_3702 ensure equality in education and in all activities funded by the federal government. Since its passage in 1972, women’s athletic participation through educational institutions has grown more than 1000%.

At the GCAC Championship basketball game on Feb. 2, 2013, where Trinity Blazers clinched their third consecutive title, we sat down with Margaret Stender to talk about education, life goals, and the dynamic force of confident, accomplished young women.

 1. What was it like to be part of launching a WNBA team in Chicago?

Working to build a WNBA team in Chicago was an entrepreneurial endeavor.  At the time the league rules stated that women’s teams had to be owned and operated by the men’s NBA franchise in that city. The Bulls were not interested in developing a WNBA team so the rules had to be changed to allow us to move forward. Building the Sky was a collaborative, team effort I found incredibly rewarding.

It felt like I came full circle in my life. I had been a young female athlete at a time when there weren’t many opportunities for women in professional sports. It was incredible to be part of launching a pro team in a city I really love. When you can look out in the stands and see 4,000 to 5,000 people who have paid to watch women play, it’s inspiring. I’ve loved all my jobs. If you’re passionate about your work and its aligned with your personal values, you feel a great sense of contribution.

 2. What have you learned from playing sports that you’ve applied to off-court endeavors?

Much of my success in the business world has come from my sports experience.  It’s a big part of my identity. When I was applying to business school at University of Virginia, I’m not sure I knew what business really meant. I had been teaching and coaching three years and I wanted to do something different. I found that the social environments of business and sports are very similar. You work in cross-functional teams, set goals, look for ways to assess the competition and attack.  Sports participation develops so many life skills such as focus, accepting responsibility, determination, discipline, and how to learn from your mistakes..

In corporate America, which is still male dominated, the majority of men derive their leadership style through sports experience. Men and women tend to lead differently, and having sports experience helps women relate better to their male counterparts in some ways. I’m not talking about being able to “talk sports.” There are lessons here about camaraderie, competition, and working effectively with people who aren’t necessarily your friends. Understanding that culture has really benefited me in the workplace.

  3. Tell how your education contributed to your success?

I was so fortunate to attend an all-girls school in Alexandria Virginia.   The all girls environment fostered a culture of high self-esteem and self worth.  It motivated us to believe that we could follow our dreams and be what we wanted to be.  We were the leaders of the school in all walks of the curriculum and after school activities.  This real leadership activity provided the hands on experience that we needed to develop our leadership styles, which in turn built our self- confidence and drive for more.

Education is the key that opens doors of opportunity, but perhaps more importantly doors of self-discovery and self worth that lead to a life of purpose. Education helps us discover topics, issues, beliefs that we deem relevant and important.  It motivates us to drive for improvement and positive change. Education helps us be more emphatic and compassionate, more understanding and inclusive.

 4. Which teacher influenced you the most in high school?

My English teacher instilled in me the love of books and stories.  My history teacher made the world of the past come alive and helped me understand how it shapes today and the future, and the real role we all play in history. But I’d have to say that my high school basketball coach had the most personal touch on my life. She motivated me to apply discipline and focus to my sport. She helped me discover that the more I put in, the more I got out.  I was the first athlete from my high school to attempt to play college sports.  She helped me see that this was possible and what I needed to do to reach that goal.  As I’ve said, these are life skills not sports skills.

5. What was the purpose in launching the Flow Basketball Academy?  What have you observed in working with young women?

I love working with young people, inspiring their dreams, and helping develop their leadership and life skills.  I am a huge believer in girl power and what positive change we can bring to the betterment of the world.  I believe girls need role models.  It is hard to become what you can’t see. Basketball is a great microcosm for life.  I love the sport and the opportunity to help the girls improve and become joyful, happy, successful players.

6. As you know, Trinity High School recently opened a Health and Fitness Center to promote the physical and mental wellbeing of its students.  In what way does this initiative align with your beliefs about fitness?

The inclusiveness of the Trinity Health & Fitness Center is brilliant.  The body of course connects to the mind and the spirit.  Physical conditioning builds self-reliance, confidence, and independence.  This applies to all the girls and educators in the school not just the “team athletes.”  The Center was one of the first ideas Sister Michelle brought to the PAC for input and consideration. It’s very forward thinking and holistic. And it serves everyone.

7. What advice would give young women about pursuing their goals during high school and beyond?

Find purpose in your life through a personal passion or interest area that holds special meaning for you.  Find something that aligns to your personal values and invest the hard work.  I’ll share two quotes that inspire me.

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Give the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.” ~ Madeline Bridges

For more information on Bal Dominique click here.

  Article by Gina Donlin