“A lot of things that seem impossible are possible,” said Marvellous Iheukwumere ’14CC, a record-holding sprinter and a 2016 Olympic hopeful. “Track has helped me grow mentally and physically and taught me lessons about responsibility I may not have learned from other sports.”
Iheukwumere moved with her family from Nigeria to Austin, Texas, when she was nine years old. At first, soccer and basketball were her sports but, in ninth grade, an encouraging coach opened her eyes to track. Just two years later, Iheukwumere finished fourth overall in the Junior Olympics. “It was then that I started to see the opportunities I could have through running,” she said.
Now a Columbia College senior, Iheukwumere is living up to her first name. The psychology major holds University records for the 60-meter dash and 4x200-meter relay and qualified for NCAA nationals last spring—while excelling academically.
Iheukwumere aspires to introduce a running program to her community in Nigeria, where organized sports in schools are lacking. “I’d like to give back to the community by starting a program that brings athletes into local schools to motivate kids and teach life skills.”
In the early 1980s when Helene Halperin-Tagliaferri ’83SEAS was an undergraduate student and a tennis player, women’s athletics, with participants from Barnard College and the School of Engineering, was a fraction of the size it is now—Columbia College had yet to go co-ed. “It was much more difficult to participate in athletics then,” Halperin-Tagliaferri said.
Today, she and her husband Mark Tagliaferri, who live in London with their two daughters, are committed to enhancing opportunities for student-athletes, particularly women, at Columbia. They have made a bequest to The Fund for Excellence, which supports the most critical needs across athletics, and a gift toward the new Campbell Sports Center. On Columbia Giving Day 2013, Halperin-Tagliaferri issued a matching gift challenge on behalf of The Women’s Leadership Council – an honorary society that recognizes leading female donors to athletics – which helped drive donations by 50 women.
“We were excited to be part of Giving Day and help kick-start giving that would benefit female student-athletes,” said Halperin-Tagliaferri.