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Estes-Speight Family Names Athletic Complex

By Emily Parker

Estes-Speight Family Names Athletic Complex

By Emily Parker

Chris Speight Brown, ’76, is passionate about the positive effects athletics have on student-athletes at Meredith College. Brown has recently given a $1 million gift that will name the Estes-Speight Family Athletic Complex. It will include athletic training space for softball, tennis, and golf, along with a student lounge and meeting room. Lights on the tennis and softball complex will also be included to allow for nighttime athletic events. The name of the complex is in memory of her mother, Mary Estes Speight, ’53, and her father, Bobby Speight.

Sports have always been important to the Speight family. Brown, who swam in her early years, was an Aqua Angel all four years at Meredith after Gail Phelan Curran, ’76, one of her best friends, encouraged her to participate. Brown also played tennis all four years. Her father, Bobby Speight, played basketball at NC State from 1949-53 and was an All-American in 1952 and 1953. His jersey was retired in 2000 and hangs in the PNC Center. Elizabeth Speight Cooley, Brown’s sister, also played basketball at NC State, and Robert Wilton Speight, Jr., played basketball for one year at Ferrum College before transferring to NC State. Brown’s mother always loved sports as well. She enjoyed watching football, basketball, and golf. She was an avid and accomplished golfer and played well into her 70’s.

Chris Speight Brown.“My brother, who lived close to our parents in Richmond, has three boys who played sports, and Mom never missed a game when they were growing up,” said Brown. 

Brown is very excited about this gift because she wants to invest in helping other women succeed in athletics. She feels Meredith Athletics promotes camaraderie, organization, and friendship while encouraging students to stay at Meredith. Research by shows that Division III student-athletes graduate at a rate 5% higher than the general student body at institutions. 

“Her support of Meredith athletics acknowledges the role athletics play in imparting lessons of competition, teamwork, discipline, and leadership,” said Jackie Myers, athletic director. 

“Chris’s actions signal a broader gender balance occurring worldwide, one in which women are naming campus facilities,” said Randy Dennis, assistant athletic director for development. “This balance suggests to young women that there is a path for them in athletics, philanthropy, and business achievement. Her effort reinforces to female athletes that what they do is essential and that women can provide and benefit from world-class facilities just like their male counterparts.”

The combination of the family’s love of sports and wanting to stay connected to Meredith further explains why this gift is important to Brown and her family. 

Brown’s daughter Lisa Brown De Armas, ’03, also attended Meredith. “We all need to invest in Meredith for the longevity of Meredith’s athletic program and to increase the prestige the program holds among future female athletes when considering schools. Ultimately, we hope to improve Meredith’s enrollment as student-athletes are drawn to these top-notch facilities.” 

Brown says Lisa had a special bond with her grandmother.  “Mom loved that Lisa continued the legacy of attending Meredith. Also my sister, brother, and I had given a gift to NC State basketball in Dad’s name. In 2005, our gift named the basketball lobby in the Dail Basketball Complex and I wanted to see my Mom’s name on something here at Meredith. I am excited because Meredith is a great institution that my mother and family believe in.”

The Speight Family gave Meredith Athletics a $200,000 gift to name the locker room in Weatherspoon Athletic Complex in memory of Mary Estes Speight, ’53, in 2018. Chris Speight Brown, ʼ76, and her siblings Elizabeth Speight Cooley and Robert Wilton Speight, Jr. along with Brown’s daughter, Lisa Brown De Armas, ʼ03, joined together to support Meredith because of the love they have for their mother and grandmother.

In 2016, the Speight Family received the Meredith College Philanthropy Award during Alumnae Reunion Weekend because they established the Mary Estes Speight Endowment. This gift was in honor of their mother, for whom education was a priority. The endowment provides scholarships for eligible students following their freshman year to bridge the gap for students and/or their families after exhausting other financial resources. 

Meredith Athletics Holds a Day of Celebration

Day of Celebration Photos by Martin Evans

On April 9, 2022 Meredith Athletics and Institutional Advancement held an Avenging Angels Day of Celebration brunch in McIver Amphitheater at Meredith Lake. The day celebrated all 10 athletic teams, their families, fans, and donors to acknowledge their accomplishments. 

Softball, tennis, and lacrosse had home games, so before the event, President Jo Allen visited the teams on their respective fields during their pre-game warm-ups. And after the event attendees were able to attend one game or rotate between games and catch all the action. 

“With Meredith athletics, we want to continue to see the best outcomes of participation, team building, good health, sportsmanship, and close but not exclusive teams,” said President Allen at the event. “We will support facilities, coaches, trainers, and conditioners, and build stronger athletics programs that support the recruitment and retention of bright student-athletes and foster leadership growth through teamwork, competition, and winning.”

The new Estes-Speight Family Athletic Complex was also announced that will include athletic training space for softball, tennis, and golf, along with a student lounge and meeting room. And Meredith hopes to have its first Athletic Hall of Fame inductees in 2023.

Meredith Golf Tournament Raises Funds for Athletics

Golf Tournament Photos by Keenan Hairston

The Meredith College athletics department held its 24th Annual Meredith College Golf Classic on April 25, 2022. The tournament is dedicated to raising funds for the advancement of Meredith College athletics programs. 

The event raises funds for the athletic department’s most pressing priorities. Countless individuals sponsored the Classic, played in the event, donated items for the online auction, and bid on online auction items. All of these actions invest in our student-athletes and Meredith athletics. 

“To sustain Meredith’s legacy as a strong women’s college and obtain the best students and staff, we must continually enhance equipment, programming, student-athlete development opportunities, and athletic facilities,” said Randy Dennis, assistant athletic director for development. “We hope you will join us next year for this annual event.”

This year’s winners were: 

Closest to the Pin: Sam Ewell, Powell Fisher, Julie Maddox, John Haskins
Men’s Longest Drive: Doug Alm
Women’s Longest Drive: Melinda Campbell
Putting Contest: Cab Baldwin

Women’s Division Winner: Melinda Campbell, Marie Chamblee, Carol Brown, Karen Shults
Mixed Division Winner: David Williams, Cliff Seastrunk, Raymond Davis, Caroline Camden
Men’s Division Winner: Maury Tepper, John Hoffman, Richard Keeter, Cab Baldwin

Meredith Athletics would like to acknowledge a special thank you to our sponsors:

Putting Green: Brad & Kim Osborne
Golf Cart: Design Development Architects

Hole sponsors:
Ann Lowery, ’74
Larry & Karen Calhoun, ’78
David Branch
Piedmont Service Group
Storm Guard Roofing & Construction
Lori Moscato, ’99 – Casual Elegance

The Stephens Family
Normann Financial Group
Charles Royal
Raleigh Brewing
Jo Cooper, ’67
Meredith Avenging Angels Club

Auction Sponsors:
Arrichion East Raleigh Hot Yoga & Circuit

Shelton Vineyards
Carolina Hurricanes Foundation
Heritage Golf Club
Grace Alexander Marett, ’11 – The Kin
Meredith College Alumnae Association
Historic 15 Church Bed & Breakfast –
      Charleston S.C.

Kannon’s Clothing
Meredith College Campus Store
The 12 Oaks Golf Course
Jimmy Hamilton Golf
President Jo Allen, ’80
If It’s Paper
Drew Weaver
Ronnie Reitz
Tom Ream

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