K A R E N G R Z E S I K, MASSACHUSETTS
Karen Lee Grzesik’s dedication to creating sport opportunities for girls and women began in 1972. Retiring in 2006 after a commendable 34-year tenure as the Physical Education and Health Department Coordinator at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Massachusetts, Karen’s influence reached well beyond administrative roles.
As a coach, Karen led the Mahar varsity field hockey team for 34 years, took charge of the varsity basketball team for a decade, and coached softball, and track and field. Beyond Mahar, she served as a basketball coach with the Orange Recreation Association and at the Fairfield University’s summer basketball camp.
Beyond coaching, Karen officiated in basketball, track and field at both high school and UMass Amherst events. Recognizing the importance of inclusion, she championed the Gay Straight Alliance and Diversity Training programs at Mahar. She created opportunities for students to experience new sports and recreational activities as the leader of school trips centered around bicycling, skiing, hiking, and rock climbing. For 18 years, she also led a school gymnastic show to showcase the talent of over 120 students per show.
A trailblazer in her discipline, Karen established a renowned physical education program at Mahar, introduced new sports like pickleball in 1985, and earned the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Women in Athletics Distinguished Service Award in 2007. By 2015, she was inducted into the Mahar Regional School Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 2009, Mahar Regional School honored her contributions by naming their gymnasium complex after Karen and fellow New Agenda Northeast Hall of Fame inductee, Polly Bixby.
Outside of her educational and athletic work, Karen has been a model of active living. An accomplished marathon runner, avid hiker, tennis enthusiast, golfer, and world traveler, she has summited Mount Elbrus and Mount Kilimanjaro. She states, “Women can do anything!” and her life is living proof of her statement.
Karen earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, Health Education, and Recreation from Southern Connecticut State College in 1972 and a master’s in Teacher Preparation from UMass Amherst in 1992.