Gymnastics Takes Gold in Buff & Blue Fund Challenge

Buff & Blue Fund Challenge

The second annual Buff & Blue Fund Challenge featured a twist – which is just how the Gymnastics team likes it.

GW coaches called on athletics alumni to support their former teams with a gift. When the dust settled and the scores were tallied, the defending East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) champions stood atop the podium.

  1. Gymnastics (49.22% participation)
  2. Women’s Lacrosse (43.64%)
  3. Women’s Soccer (38.60%)

“I am so proud of our gymnastics alumnae family for winning the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge. It feels great!” beamed Margie Foster-Cunningham, head coach of the Gymnastics team. “I would like to thank all of our alumni for their support. The university has been extremely generous to the athletics department, but it is the partnership between the university and our alumni that can really make a difference for our athletic programs. The women’s gymnastics alumnae really came through for us!”

This year’s Challenge was made possible thanks to the generosity of Michelle Rubin, ESIA BA ’91. The chair of the GW Athletics Advisory Council donated $15,000 to the top three teams, with second and third place winning $5,000 and $2,500 respectively.

“It was my privilege to be part of the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge, and I am thrilled with the results,” said Rubin. “The enthusiasm and competition among all 27 varsity sports was great to see. To engage athletics alumni, many for the first time, is so important. This challenge was just the beginning and I am already looking forward to next year.”

GW student-athletes thank Michelle Rubin, ESIA BA '91, for sponsoring the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge with a signed and framed poster on Feb. 21, 2016.

GW student-athletes thank Michelle Rubin, ESIA BA ’91, for sponsoring the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge with a signed and framed poster on Feb. 21, 2016.

Including Rubin’s $15,000 gift, the Challenge raised more than $155,000 for GW Athletics. More than 600 former student-athletes participated, a record for GW Athletics, and the 15% giving rate is higher than the national average.

The support of GW Gymnastics alumnae and the $7,500 first place prize will serve as a fundraising springboard for a locker room renovation. “Locker rooms are used on a daily basis by GW student-athletes and can provide a ‘wow factor’ in recruiting,” explained Foster-Cunningham. “This project will provide an improved and renovated home for our program and will cover daily facility needs for our young women and coaches, resulting in the place where championship teams come together.”

Tracy Coyne, head coach of Women’s Lacrosse, was excited with her team’s second place finish in the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge. “We can’t thank Michelle and our alumnae enough for this wonderful financial boost to the program,” said Coyne. “I am proud to be a part of such a supportive alumnae group. They really embraced the opportunity to support the team and did so in a big way. We are thrilled to be one of the teams that is benefiting directly from Michelle’s gift.”

2016 Buff & Blue Fund Challenge final standings.

2016 Buff & Blue Fund Challenge final standings.

Coyne had another reason for being satisfied with her team’s accomplishment.

“As a woman, I am so proud to see three women’s teams led by female head coaches win a prize donated by an influential alumna,” said Coyne. “It is powerful statement by the alumnae.”

The $5,000 second place prize will go toward new home and away uniforms for the Lacrosse team and enhance their spring training trip by adding a special cultural activity to the itinerary.

Women’s Soccer netted third in the Challenge.

“While we never like to lose, the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge has been one of the few athletics opportunities to create a win-win situation,” said Women’s Soccer head coach Sarah Barnes. “We are excited to have placed and thankful to the alumnae and Michelle Rubin for their generosity and commitment to our program.

“There are so many alumnae who I’ve only met once – or never – who stepped up to support the program in this year’s Challenge,” she continued. “It’s a great reminder of what an honor it is to represent the women who built this program.”

Barnes will use the $2,500 prize to kick off fundraising for new wooden lockers for her team. “Programs that consistently compete in the NCAA tournament recruit elite players every year, and in today’s environment, facilities matter,” she said.

GW’s Department of Athletics and Recreation is committed to creating champions in the classroom, in the community, and in competition. While the top three teams earned prize bonuses in this year’s Challenge, GW Athletics is the real winner.

“Philanthropic giving is the lifeblood of most successful collegiate athletics departments and it is crucial to our ability to continue to climb in the national rankings across all of our sports,” said Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero. “Because of people like Michelle Rubin, our future is strong and bright. We are most grateful for Michelle’s generosity as she was the spark plug for us to achieve unprecedented heights in terms of our alumni giving. Backed by her commitment, our former student-athletes have already established new record numbers for giving this fiscal year, at a rate that exceeds the national average. We had an overwhelming response to the Buff & Blue Fund Challenge and we’re excited for what else is to come.”

Even though this year’s Challenge is in the books, there’s always time to support GW’s student-athletes – and it doesn’t have to be financially.

“Clearly having the financial resources to support the athletes in a way that improves the overall experience is a primary goal for all of us,” said Lacrosse coach Coyne, “but support of the athletes and the Buff & Blue Fund goes well beyond just financial support. Attending home and away games, returning to campus for Alumni and Homecoming weekends, and being a resource in the job market will set us apart from our peers. Making a connection with the current student-athletes on a personal level and with a gift is inspirational. The gift of giving back will become part of the athletic department culture and will only serve to strengthen GW Athletics.”

Stat Sheet

Total athletics alumni donors = 600+ (GW Athletics record)
Total gifts since January kickoff = 475
Percentage of athletics alumni giving = 15% (better than national average)
New donors to GW Athletics = 85
Amount donated = $140,000+
Challenge funding secured = $15,000
Total raised = $155,000+
Number of Michelle Rubins = 1

Nicole Ferdinando, Director of Annual Giving for GW Athletics, contributed to this story.


The Buff & Blue Fund supports champions in the classroom, in the community, and in competition. Give today.

Author: Craig Burdick

Craig Burdick is a writer on GW's development communications team. If you have a story idea, let him know at

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