One of the Builders of the Women’s Athletic Dynasty at Baldwin Wallace
Marcia M. French was one of the pioneers in intercollegiate athletics for women. In 33 years as a teacher, coach and administrator at Baldwin Wallace University, she helped build a fledging athletic program to a regional power with 10 sports, capturing the Ohio Athletic Conference All-Sports trophy numerous times.
Born Marcia Belser and raised in Independence, Ohio, she came to Baldwin Wallace as a student in 1959.
She graduated from BW in 1963 and was a 1995 inductee into the Alumni Athletic Hall of Fame. “We had a very organized intramural program and we also had what we called ‘play days’ when we would travel to meet a number of schools and play a variety of sports at a central site.”
“In the beginning one of the main purposes of competition between schools was the interaction among the players,” she said. “I remember when we used to have a social after the competition.”
After graduating from BW in 1963, French taught and coached in the Parma schools for two years before returning to B‑W to teach and start an intercollegiate volleyball program in 1965. She received her master’s degree from Kent State University in 1968.
French introduced intercollegiate softball to BW in 1970. In 22 years, she guided her teams to success at the slow-pitch and again as the sport made its transition to fast-pitch in 1986. In 1992, BW compiled a school-record 28 wins and earned a spot in the NCAA Division III national tournament.
From 1985-92, French compiled a 124-123-1 (.502) overall record and a 64-55-1 (.540) conference record.
In addition to coaching softball, French also was the head volleyball coach.
In 27 seasons as volleyball coach, she compiled a record of 447-298 (.600), with two teams advancing to the NCAA Division III national playoff level. In 1992, after leading the Yellow Jackets to a 28-12 record and a berth in the NCAA nationals, she was named Midwest Region Coach of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
“We started by playing just a few teams, such as Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green, Dayton, and Mount St. Joseph,” she recalled. “We played in the first state volleyball tournament. Then we began playing in associations that sponsored state and national tournaments with large and small schools together. From that, the AIAW (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) was formed. Then we moved on to NCAA sponsored affiliation and eventually the formation of women’s athletics in the Ohio Athletic Conference.”
She was named BW’s second athletic director of women in 1981. With her leadership, the women’s athletic programs continued to grow.
“Marcie was a tireless cheerleader for her players and for women’s athletics,” said former BW Chancellor Neal Malicky. “In four decades since Marcie began classes at BW, things changed dramatically in women’s athletics. People here agree that if those changes involved Marcie French, they were all for the better.”