WATERVILLE — Thomas College President Laurie G. Lachance was in sixth grade when Title IX was passed, prohibiting discrimination based on gender in any education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.

Amid the 50th anniversary of the bill, the college released a video Friday of Lachance saying this legislation altered the course of her life.

“As you think about what has Title IX meant, it’s been a game-changer,” Lachance said the video. “It has changed the landscape for what’s possible for women, young women, older women, women of all ages, but particularly younger women who can start their competition and their learning and their personal growth at a much younger age and beyond, at a much more level footing with the males that they compete with for jobs.”

Laurie Lachance Submitted photo

Enacted on June 23, 1972, Title IX does not explicitly mention athletics, yet it opened the door for women in sports and ensured that girls had the same opportunities in sports as their male peers.

To mark the occasion, the Biden administration on Thursday proposed an expansion of the law that would prohibit schools, colleges and universities from discriminating against LGBTQ students, trans students and students who have been victims of campus sexual assault.

In her video address, Lachance reflected on how, when she was 11 years old and in sixth grade, she had never realized how much Title IX affected her. Back then, she just knew she loved sports: basketball, football and soccer.


She recounted joining the school’s basketball team in high school. ln February of 1976, she participated in what “may very well have been the first women’s basketball tournament.”

“We got annihilated by the first place team. … I’ll never forget that game,” Lachance said. “I had four fouls in three minutes, to which my friends in the van told me afterward, … was the most exciting part of the game. I got my start there and never realized that a few years earlier, my older sisters wouldn’t have had those same opportunities that I had.”

It is humbling, she said, to think about how her path was so different than other young women who had been in her place only a few years before.

“I wonder what doors would have been open for me had there not been this major shift and this opportunity presented,” Lachance said.

After graduating from Bowdoin College, which she described as “a very male-dominated college” in 1983, she went on to become the first female in many major roles: as state economist for the Maine State Planning Office, as corporate economist at Central Maine Power Co., as president of the Maine Development Foundation, and, now, as the president of Thomas College.

When Lachance started working in the college environment, she realized how much Title IX has changed the world for women.

“As you think about what the ability to be involved in organized, highly competitive sports does for you is it helps you build leadership skills; you learn about teamwork, tenacity, hard work, strategy,” Lachance said. “And ironically, those are exactly what the employers today are looking for, for skills. So, if you’ve never had much of a chance to hone those skills, you’re at a big disadvantage, and Title IX certainly opened the doors for that.”

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