Alumnae athletes share advice and perspective at Nov. 30 “Her Purpose” event
Johanna Boynton ’84 played four years of varsity hockey at Harvard and is now the principal owner and board member of the Toronto Six, an Ontario, Canada-based professional women’s ice hockey team. Alie Rusher ’14 was a two-time PAC All-Academic first team honoree as a four-year member of the varsity rowing team at Stanford and represented the United States in the women’s quadruple sculls at the Tokyo Olympics. Cecilia Marrinan ’20 holds multiple individual and relay records at St. Paul’s School and is a current student-athlete at Brown, where she competes in sprint-distance events. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, all three alumnae brought their perspective as elite athletes to “Her Purpose: To Compete,” the second event in the School’s yearlong celebration of 50 years of coeducation. Co-hosted by Rector Kathy Giles and Sixth Form student-athlete Abbey Xu, the in-person panel discussion took place in the Athletic and Fitness Center Gates Lounge.
Some 150 students were in attendance to hear the trio reflect on questions that ranged from the role athletics played in their lives to what had a profound impact on their identities as athletes to favorite sports-related memories. And while tales of improbable victories and moments of triumph figured in — Boynton told a particularly resonant story from her SPS hockey years about beating a previously undefeated rival team on its home ice, ruining that team’s planned post-game cupcake celebration in the process — so, too, did candid reflections on struggle and disappointment. Marrinan noted that many at SPS would probably be surprised to know she had a “passion” for the cello, an instrument she’d given up playing seriously so she could focus on running. Rusher spoke about how her Olympic experience didn’t go as she had hoped, in spite of her physical and mental preparation.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned as an Olympian is that it’s not all about winning,” Rusher said. “You can make the journey really great and be proud of yourself, and if the results aren’t what you wanted, you can move on with your life in a great way.”
Boynton provided further inspiration as she spoke about what drove her involvement with the business side of women’s athletics. “My journey is really mission-driven. It’s about women and empowerment and inclusivity that’s embedded in a sport I love,” she explained, noting that while Toronto Six is “a business proposition, for sure,” it’s also about elevating the profile of women’s athletics.
The hourlong panel concluded with each alumna’s reflection on what advice she might give to her SPS self. Rusher spoke about reassuring herself she was doing the right things. Boynton said she’d worry more about the way she made other people feel. Less than two years out from her time in Millville, Marrinan provided a particularly timely perspective to an AFC audience that included former teammates and friends. “One of the best pieces of advice I could give myself or anyone at St. Paul’s is that you are your own driver and force in the trajectory of your life,” she said. Noting that it’s easy as a high school student to do things to please parents, peers, or even a future self, she added, “You have to check yourself. … You are not in something to please your future self or anyone else but yourself.”
Hear more from Johanna Boynton ’84, Alie Rusher ’14, and Cecilia Marrinan ’20. You can watch the full “Her Purpose: To Compete” panel discussion here.