Anna Nichols is Inducted into the Brandeis University Hall of Fame, 1998

Anna Nichols


Inducted into the Brandeis University Hall of Fame in 1998, Anna C. Nichols’ career at Brandeis actually stretches back 50 years earlier to when she held the position of the head of women’s athletics, a role she would excel in until her retirement position in the mid-1960’s. Prior to coming to Brandeis her college athletic career included time spent at the University of Chicago, Boston University and Wellesley College, campuses where, like so many other schools at the time, “intercollegiate athletics for women was considered unladylike.” She reports that when the Athletic Center was finally built in 1953 “we had to come in by the back door – pretending to have ‘play days’.” At the time she worked with local PE chairs, along with Benny Friedman and Harry Stein, to start formalizing a women’s league. The first to be formed in the ’53-’54 season was basketball which she would go on to coach. Just two years later the Girls Varsity Basketball team would complete their first undefeated season (13-0), beating back challenges from Simmons, Boston, College, Boston University and Radcliffe, among others. Nichols had predicted the team would win only 75% of the games that season. “We had a good cohesive group of players that year. They found a way to work together and get the job done.” Such successes had their impact in the athletic sphere. Recalls Nichols, “in one particularly bleak year for the men, I heard a knock on my office door, and when I opened it 12 guys stood there. They came to ask me if I would coach the men’s basketball team. Obviously, I declined, but I was touched by the gesture.”

She also coached the men’s varsity swimming team, making her the first female coach of a men’s major varsity college team in the country. Before the construction of the Lindsay pool she had the swimmers train at the Babson and the Waltham Boy’s Club pool. She writes that her final report for that year noted “We showed up for every meet and no one drowned.” Additionally, Nichols is credit for helping to form and lead the first Brandeis cheerleading squads.  (Correspondence – Aug. 2, 1998) (M. Stephen Brown, Advocate, date unknown)