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Event celebrates women in athletics

By : Rachel Coker

Cathleen Ellsworth ’86, a managing director and chief marketing officer for First Reserve Corp., speaks during the third-annual Lourdes Celebrating Women’s Athletics Luncheon and Auction on Feb. 4 at the Events Center. A record crowd of roughly 300 attend

Tennis team captain Gayathri Balasundar ’08 speaks about her experiences as a student-athlete.

Cathleen Ellsworth ’86 is no shrinking violet. She’s the managing director and chief marketing officer — and the only female partner — in the private equity firm First Reserve Corp. The Connecticut company, which specializes in energy industry investments, has $12.5 billion under management.

Ellsworth traces much of her self-confidence and approach to the business world to her time as a student-athlete at Binghamton University. She delivered the keynote address during the Feb. 4 Lourdes Celebrating Women’s Athletics Luncheon at the Events Center.

Ellsworth, then a transfer student who ran cross country and played basketball, recalls coach Gary Truce asking her, “Why not you? Why can’t you be the one to succeed?”
“Those three words changed my life,” she said. “I stopped thinking of myself within limits.”

In athletics and in the corporate world, she said: “You label yourself.”

Ellsworth said lessons she learned about teamwork, dedication and focus as a student-athlete have carried over into her professional life. “Those things are not just clichés,” she said. “They really do work. I’m competitive, but you don’t win over the long term by stepping on others.”

She said she appreciated Truce’s willingness to give the “why” as well as the “how” when he issued training instructions or other guidance. She tries to do the same with the employees on her team to this day.

Visualization techniques that helped her before races and games are also useful in meeting preparation and other elements of corporate life.

Ellsworth, who’s married with two sons, continues to make time for athletics in her life. She runs the New York City Marathon and other races each year. And she feels so strongly about Truce’s impact on her life that she established a scholarship in his name last year.

She shared photos of herself at Binghamton with the audience, punctuating her remarks with self-depricating commentary on hairstyles and clothing trends of the 1980s. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she urged the young women in attendance.

Ellsworth capped a program that drew about 300 people. This is just the third year the luncheon has been held; attendance has roughly doubled each year. The event benefits the Binghamton University Athletic Club Women’s Scholarship Fund.

John O’Neil, CEO of Lourdes Hospital, a major sponsor of the luncheon; University President Lois B. DeFleur; tennis team captain Gayathri Balasundar ’08; and Joel Thirer, director of health, physical education and athletics, all shared their thoughts on the importance of women’s athletics.

Balasundar, a Syosset native majoring in English and philosophy, politics and law, noted that her self-confidence and leadership abilities have been strengthened by her time as an athlete. She even had a chance to attend a 2006 NCAA leadership conference in Florida. The bottom line, Balasundar said, is that she’s had opportunities to learn and to push herself to do better that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“This day is not about sports,” said O’Neil, himself a swimmer and triathlete. “It’s about building a moral community for our future.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08