The below is a speech given by the Soroptimists’ Sheri Newman honoring Neola “Sis” Voegtli with the organization’s ‘Making a Difference for Women Award’.
It is my honor today to present to you our honoree for our “Making a Difference for Women Award” winner, Neola “Sis” Voegtli. The award honors women who, through their professional or personal efforts have made extraordinary differences in the lives of women and girls.
She has inspired and encouraged women and girls to live their dreams.
As a long time resident of Parker, many of you know Sis and her many achievements. Allow me to recap her life that truly embodies the spirit of our award.
She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, graduated from Mankato College in Minnesota. Sis taught physical education; coached volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field; and sponsored Varsity and Junior Varsity Cheerleaders. It was the beginning of a legendary 27 years of coaching.
During her coaching career, she achieved a record of 480 wins and 54 losses to become the coach with the most “wins” in the history of Arizona, male or female.
She started her teaching and coaching career in 1964 at Window Rock, Arizona and after starting the girls’ athletic program finished her career at Parker High School.
Sis has been honored with numerous professional awards, including but certainly not limited to:
1978 – Arizona Coach of the year
1987 – ESPN feature presentation as one of the nation’s best coaches
1980 to 1989 National Region 8 Coach of the Year, Inducted into the Arizona and National High School Coaches Hall of Fame
While those achievements are phenomenal, her behind the scenes work was instrumental in paving the way for other female athletes: She promoted the passage of Title IX, prohibiting sex discrimination and forcing the Arizona Interscholastic Association to recognize girls’ basketball as a sport. She served on the Women’s Sports Equality Committee where she lobbied for Title IX in Washington, DC. These lobbying efforts changed the lives of countless young women across the nation.
Those professional accomplishments are indeed outstanding! Her mentorship doesn’t stop there. Sis became legal guardian to 4 at need girls during their formative years. From those “daughters” she proudly claims at least 9 grandchildren and even 1 great grandchild.
Lastly I want to share with you the words of a former student athlete:
Throughout high school Sis was a mentor to every athlete she coached. One of her gifts was making us understand that we can make a difference in our lives.
Through hard work and dedication, life had no barriers. She always drove into us that we had to work harder as a female to get recognition and we never could expect a hand-out. Her standards were high; curfew, grades, no soda during season and it didn’t matter if you were the star player, if you didn’t toe the line, you were benched. She always put education first. If you were not passing your classes with a “C” or higher, you didn’t play. She would spend her summers and money taking us to summer camps back east, always looking for ways to get us out of Parker to see other coaches and athletes. She didn’t discriminate and expected every athlete to find ways to get along.
There are many athletes/students that went through her program and/or classroom that continue, to this day, to speak highly of her and many that can tell you they would not be the person they are today without her strong leadership in their lives.”
– Kelly McGuire, Principal, Wallace Elementary School
It is now my pleasure to present this award and check for $250 to Sis’s chosen charity, Hearts United for Animals. Ladies and gentlemen, Sis Voegtli.