LACROSSE DEDICATES MEMORIAL TO PROGRAM'S FALLEN TEAMMATES
A month after taking over as William & Mary's lacrosse coach in August 2019, Colleen Dawson learned some tragic news. A recent alumna of the program, Megan Rafferty '09, had died in a bicycle accident.
Even more tragic, Rafferty was the third former W&M lacrosse player in less than four years to pass away far too early. She followed Caitlin Clavette '05, who died in an automobile accident in February of 2016, and Stuart Cawthorn '99, who died of cancer in November of 2018.
Dawson consulted with two lacrosse alums — Morgan Lang Hutter '06 and Peel Hawthorne '80. They have remain connected to their alma mater, Hutter as associate director of strategic engagement with the Mason School of Business and Hawthorne as former field hockey coach and current senior associate athletics director.
The result provided a memorial for not only Rafferty, Clavette and Cawthorn but for every former W&M lacrosse player who is no longer with us. By the ticket window at Martin Family Stadium is a newly planted tree. In front of it is a plaque that reads:
In memory of our fallen teammates
One Tribe One Family
Dedicated April 2020
That date was when the tree was planted. Delayed two years due to the pandemic, the official ceremony was held last Saturday afternoon. Green ribbons were issued to those who had lost someone in the program and gold ribbons to former lacrosse and field hockey players.
"We decided it would be great to honor them in some way that's a permanent fixture at our stadium," Dawson said. "We had three young alums pass away recently, but we're honoring all of the alums who have passed away."
Dozens turned out for the ceremony, from alums to current players to family members. Dawson spoke, as did field hockey coach Tess Ellis, athletics director Brian Mann and the five team captains — Belle Martire, Caroline Donovan, Lauren Russell, Sabrina Schrader and Grace Ahonen.
Sixty-one names were on display for the ceremony, from three players in the Class of '34 to Rafferty. Because the two programs were intertwined until the 1990s, many student-athletes on the list also played field hockey.
"As a society, we get so wrapped up in winning and losing," Ellis said. "But at the end of the day, if you walk away as a better person and leave the program in a better place, you can look at each other and say, 'That's an A-plus.'"
Born in Chester, Pa., Rafferty received her Master's from Seton Hall after graduating from W&M. She was a teacher in Guatemala and Austria before settling in Summerville, S.C. Rafferty was only 33 when she was killed after being hit by a car while riding her bicycle.
Cawthorn, who grew up in Richmond, played field hockey and lacrosse her two first years before focusing on lacrosse in her final two. As a senior, she was named team captain and selected to the All-CAA team. She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2002. She died of cancer at 41.
Clavette, from Winchester, Mass., graduated W&M with a BA in studio arts. From there, she earned her Master's in teaching at Tufts University. She died in an automobile accident at 35.
Along with all who have passed, they will be remembered.
"The main thing is to ensure that everyone's legacy is continuously remembered throughout our program," Ahonen said. "Without our alumni who paved the way, and their countless hours of hard work as student-athletes, none of us would be here.
"We all appreciate, admire and love everything they did. Without their four years, whether it was 2000 to 2004 or 1980 to 1984, everyone is equally a part of the Tribe lacrosse family."