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Sept. 12, 1997

WNBA President Valerie B. Ackerman to Speak on October 17

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- With the success of the opening season of the Women's National Basketball Association, its president, Val Ackerman, will have a lot to say when she visits the University of Virginia to receive the 1997 Distinguished Alumna Award Oct. 17. She will give a talk about women's professional sports and working in the field, at 3 p.m. in Minor Hall auditorium. The presentation is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

"The WNBA represents, among other things, the burgeoning opportunities for women in many fields," said Aukerman when she was interviewed before the final championship game Aug. 30.

Twenty years ago, when she was winning fans as a U.Va. Cavalier basketball star, an American women's professional basketball league was just a dream. This year, starting in June and culminating with the playoffs at the end of August, the WNBA's first season drew more than a million fans to watch the eight teams play around the country.

Even before the WNBA players hit the courts, Aukerman, who graduated from U.Va. in 1981 and started for the Cavaliers all four years, was recognized for her achievements and picked for the University's Distinguished Alumna Award. The Women's Center established the annual award in 1991 to honor a female U.Va. graduate who has demonstrated excellence, leadership and extraordinary commitment to her field, and who has used her talents as a positive force for change. Previous recipients are attorney Linda Fairstein, head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit of the New York City District Attorney's Office; Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, Director of the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health; journalist Katie Couric; astronaut Kathryn Thornton; Middle Esst peace activist Hanan Ashrawi; and Rear Admiral Mariann Stratton, Nurse Corps, U.S. Navy, Retired.

Playing for Coach Debbie Ryan, Ackerman was captain of the Cavaliers for three years and a two-time All-ACC Second Team selection. She also excelled as a student, majoring in political and social thought, and was recognized twice for her outstanding grades as an Academic All-American.

After playing one season of professional basketball in France, Aukerman entered UCLA School of Law, receiveing her law degree in 1985. She joined a Wall Street law firm before starting her career with the NBA in 1988 as a staff attorney and rose to Vice President of Business Affairs by 1994.

Ackerman, who lives in New York City with her husband, Charles Rappaport, and daughters Emily and Sally, will receive the award Oct. 17 at a benefit dinner for the Women's Center at the home of U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.


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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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