March 1, 2012

Lifestyles: Securites and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro

by Matt Forman |

Mary Schapiro played on F&M's first varsity team and is in the school's athletics hall of fame.

Mary Schapiro, ranked No. 24 on Forbes' list of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women," does not back down from a challenge. Despite never picking up a lacrosse stick until college, she did not shy away from stepping onto field as a collegian at Franklin & Marshall, where she captained the Diplomats' first varsity team as a senior in 1977. She also played field hockey at F&M and was inducted into the school's athletics hall of fame in 2009.

In her professional career, Schapiro embraced her post to serve as the first permanent female Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Appointed by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in January 2009, Schapiro has held the position for the last two years, serving as the federal agency's leader to "reinvigorate a financial regulatory system that protects investors and vigorously enforces the rules."

Translation: She's tough on corporate scofflaws and an advocate for investor rights. But Schapiro has a soft side for lacrosse — the sport she grew to love and still plays with her children.

How did you first get into lacrosse?
I had never even seen a lacrosse game until I got to college — my high school did not have a men's or women's team. The field hockey coach persuaded me to give lacrosse a try.

What position did you play, and what kind of player were you?
My position was left attack wing. Compared to the skills that women bring to the game today, well, let's just say that they are much finer athletes!

What are your fondest memories of playing lacrosse at Franklin & Marshall?
I really loved everything about my lacrosse (and field hockey) experience at college — except maybe the long bus rides to away games. The camaraderie with teammates and the sense of belonging to something bigger than any individual was wonderful.

You were a member of the first varsity women's lacrosse team at Franklin & Marshall. What was that like?
We certainly didn't think of ourselves as pioneers — but we were very anxious to move from club to varsity status.

Do you still follow lacrosse today?
I follow the F&M teams closely. They are outstanding. The quality of play in women's lacrosse today is extraordinary, and it is thrilling to watch. It is faster, more physical and more strategic than it was when I played 30-plus years ago.

When was the last time you picked up a lacrosse stick? Do you have an itch to play?
I actually toss a lacrosse ball around with my daughters from time to time. They laugh when I use my old wooden stick with the rawhide netting. I would love to play again.

How often do you run into or work with people who played lacrosse?
More often than you would think, but mostly they are younger than I am.

When you were at F&M, did you ever expect to be where you are now?
No, I really didn't.

Did your experiences in lacrosse help you throughout your professional career?
Without question. Lacrosse is truly a team endeavor. You have work together, you have to be constantly mindful of where your teammates are, you have to be willing to be in the supporting role, you have to be able to read signals and be prepared to regroup — all of these are important to workplace success. It also taught me to take risks. As I said, I'd never even seen a lacrosse game before I arrived at F&M, and I was very nervous walking out on the field for the first time, worried that I'd make a mistake and that I might let my teammates down. But I improved, and by my senior year, I was elected captain. In our first varsity year, the team went 7-4. Joining the lacrosse team showed me that I could attempt things that were completely new to me — and eventually succeed.

A version of this article appears in the March issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your monthly subscription.

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