University Park, Pa. — Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics mourns the passing of Gillian Rattray, former head coach of the field hockey and women's lacrosse teams, who helped lay the foundation for the success of women's athletics at Penn State. She died on Thursday, December 21 in State College at the age of 83.
Rattray was head coach of the Penn State field hockey program from 1974–1986 and women's lacrosse team from 1974–1985, guiding the programs to a combined five national championships. The year of 1980 was among the many coaching highlights for Rattray, as in the span of seven months, she directed two national championship squads, the first in May with the women's lacrosse team and the second in November with the field hockey squad. She was recognized by the Guinness Book of Sports Records for the accomplishment.
She earned a combined career record of 319-68-24 as the leader of the Penn State field hockey and women's lacrosse programs, leading both squads to their first national championships.
"I had the honor and privilege to coach against Gillian and to admire her Penn State teams from afar," director of athletics Sandy Barbour, who coached against Rattray's teams as a member of the Northwestern staff. "She was the ultimate competitor, teacher and mentor. Our field hockey and lacrosse programs are pillars of excellence today because of Coach Rattray's steady hand and passion for students. We are saddened by her loss, but know that her spirit will continue to guide us daily".
"I have immense gratitude for Gillian, as she was the sole reason that I ended up at Penn State," said field hockey coach Char Morett, who played both sports under Rattray's leadership from 1975–1979.
As the head coach of the field hockey program from 1974–1986, Rattray compiled a record of 176-49-21 over 13 seasons. She led the Nittany Lions to two AIAW National Championships in 1980 and 1981. Rattray also led field hockey to five straight NCAA Tournaments from 1982-1986 and two NCAA semifinal appearances. The five straight NCAA Tournament appearances would be the first five of 19 straight from 1982-2000.
As the leader of the women's lacrosse team from 1974-85, Rattray compiled a 143-19-3 career record in her 12 years as head coach. The Nittany Lions won three straight USWLA National Championships from 1978-1980 under Rattray, compiling a combined 45-1-3 record over those three seasons. She also led Penn State to two Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Tournaments and three NCAA Tournaments, including a pair of NCAA semifinal appearances in 1983 and 1985. She coached 20 U.S. Lacrosse All-Americans and 11 Brine/IWLCA All-Americans during her tenure, including a program record six first-team All-Americans during the 1984 season.
Rattray led Penn State women's lacrosse to a winning record every season she was at the helm, including the program's only two undefeated seasons in 1978 and 1979. With the inception of post-season play in 1978, Rattray led the Nittany Lions to the post-season in each of her final eight seasons as head coach.
She also played a vital role in helping organize the first NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship in 1982.
Rattray retired from coaching in June 1987 in order to devote all her time to teaching after serving as an assistant professor in the College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation for ten years while coaching.
A member of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2005 induction), Rattray also was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2005) and the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame (2007).
This past October, Rattray was honored with a plaque at the U.S. Lacrosse Headquarters during a special U.S. Lacrosse Trailblazers dedication in Princeton, N.J. The Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) selected 11 former collegiate coaches to celebrate as trailblazers of the game and each had a plaque dedicated in their name. Each coach demonstrated exceptional work in advancing women's lacrosse and the coaching profession during the Title IX era.
Current and former Penn State coaches comment on Gillian Rattray
"Gillian was one of the most successful field hockey and lacrosse coaches through the 1970's and into the late 1980's. She developed both programs simultaneously into national prominence. Anyone who played for Gillian could truly feel how much she cared about each and every one us.
While her teams won many championships in both field hockey and lacrosse it was her sincere nurturing that made you want to play for her and your teammates. The term "pioneer" doesn't do her justice; she was fiercely passionate about getting equal everything for her girls—scholarships, uniforms, equipment, training table. If the men had it, then Gillian was going to make sure we got it too! Not too many women were doing that in the 1970's...she was the toughest!
Our field hockey field was neatly manicured and therefore the best in the country. She made sure the groundskeeper looked after it like Beaver Stadium. It was the envy of all. Proud of her English heritage, she insisted that we make sure our shoes were shined, kilts and shirts pressed neatly before we could step on the field to compete. As well, we trained in kilts at practice, a tradition that we uphold to this day!
Her success was built on getting athletes to play together as team. As a result, championships were won and friendships were formed with strong bonds that still hold true today. She had a beautiful smile and twinkle in those beautiful blue eyes—that is the coach we will remember.
–Charlene Morett-Curtiss, Penn State head field hockey coach; former Penn State field hockey and women's lacrosse student-athlete
"Gillian was a pioneer in coaching and women's lacrosse. Her influence can be seen in all the strong women that she impacted in her years at Penn State. She was a fierce competitor with an incredible wit, and we will continue to work hard to live up to her legacy."
–Missy Doherty, Penn State head women's lacrosse coach
"Gillian left a legacy with her career at Penn State. I feel so lucky to have been coached and loved by her. She lived a great life, touched the lives of so many and she will be missed, but never forgotten."
–Karen Schnellenbach, former Penn State student-athlete and women's lacrosse head coach