Dr. Geri Polvino became one of the nation’s winningest volleyball coaches when her teams at Eastern Kentucky University fashioned a 627-439 record from 1966 to 1997, winning nine conference championships and eight league tournament titles.
Now the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame coach wants to ensure that future Colonels have the same opportunity for success. Polvino recently committed $100,000 to the University to fund a comprehensive renovation to the women’s volleyball locker room in Alumni Coliseum. In recognition of her generosity, the renovated facility will be named in honor of Polvino’s family.
The enhanced locker room, as well as a state-of-the-art video room, are expected to enhance the program’s ability to attract high-level student-athletes. “The women who share this space will go on to achieve extraordinary things,” Polvino predicted.
Polvino’s “generous contribution will ensure that current and future volleyball players at EKU will have some of the best facilities … to consistently compete for championships,” said EKU Director of Athletics Stephen Lochmueller.
Since her retirement as EKU’s first volleyball coach, Polvino has remained actively involved with Eastern. Her lifetime of giving to the University encompasses a number of athletics and academics initiatives, most notably:
· The Russell T. and Josephine B. Polvino Endowed Women’s Volleyball and Softball Fund.
· The Dr. Geri Polvino Women and Gender Studies Endowed Fund that supports Eastern’s multidisciplinary program and reflects her lifelong commitment to equity and justice for all women.
· The Mary Lotta Family Endowed Fund, which supports Eastern’s NOVA program, providing academic and social services to help students complete their degrees.
She was honored in November 2015 at a National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Lexington for her “exceptional” philanthropic efforts, as reflected through her gifts and her “generosity of spirit and time.”
Polvino’s coaching acumen made her one of the most respected authorities in the sport worldwide and the first certified female instructor in the International Volleyball Federation. She was a highly sought clinic instructor, both in the U.S. and abroad, and taught the game in such diverse nations as Japan, Malaysia, Germany and Jamaica. She served three years as campus director of the Federation’s International Coaches Course, which attracted more than 200 coaches from around the world to the EKU campus.
In the late 1980s, she helped to pioneer the National Invitational Volleyball Championships, which opened post-season play to teams not fortunate enough to make the NCAA Tournament field, thereby giving thousands of student-athletes even more opportunities to compete and make lasting memories. She also served as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport’s Coaches Academy and chaired the CWS Volleyball Rules Committee.
The 1991 EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni inductee – she earned her master’s degree at Eastern – became the first volleyball coach to be inducted into the OVC Hall of Fame when she was enshrined in 2005.
Many of Polvino’s players went on to coaching careers of their own, including her successor and current head volleyball coach at EKU, Lori Duncan.
“My experience as a student-athlete at EKU under Coach Polvino was remarkable,” Duncan said. “I decided to pursue coaching volleyball as a profession because of Dr. Polvino’s leadership. She taught me the value of teamwork, loyalty, integrity and generosity. She is and was an exceptional mentor, friend and coach. Dr. Polvino will always exemplify what makes EKU and our volleyball program extraordinary.”