You might not know who Sandra Petway is but you should. She started the women’s track and field program at Rutgers in 1973 and was the first head coach to lead the team. In doing so, Petway became the first black head coach in Rutgers history. Her story was beautifully profiled by Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media over the summer.
In summarizing her career, Sargeant wrote, “Petway mentored a half-dozen runners to record-setting performances nationally during the program’s first four years of existence, coached her first cross country team to an 8-0 record in 1976, and became a full-time coach for Rutgers in September 1977. She left the school three years later for a business position with Johnson & Johnson in North Brunswick, then carved out an impressive career as a pharmaceutical sales manager.”
It drew well deserved and long overdue attention to Petway’s legacy. Her success as a head coach and helping to make the state university more progressive while paving the way for future black coaches makes her an important and historic figure.
“Like so many things unfortunately at Rutgers, through the passage of time, some of these historic firsts are lost,’’ Rutgers athletics director Pat Hobbs said after being told by NJ Advance Media about Petway’s story. “Now being aware of it, absolutely we need to celebrate it. It is historic for Rutgers; it’s a proud moment for Rutgers. She should be celebrated — and will be.’’
A happy ending was being written for a person who broke the color barrier and made history at Rutgers. Unfortunately, the story has taken another turn and this time it was not a positive one.
On the same day in July that Hobbs reached out to Petway about making plans to honor her, she was in a head-on automobile accident that has taken away her ability to walk.
Former longtime Rutgers field hockey head coach Ann Petracco, who has been friends with Petway for many years, has started a Go Fund Me page to raise money for her. She wrote the following:
“She suffered a C5/6 fracture and spinal cord injury in the head on collision. She was at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and has been moved to Neuro Restorative in Sarasota, FL. Through rehab, there is some shoulder motion. Your financial support is needed for Sandee’s long term care.”
“Our dear friend needs your help, she is strong with an excellent mind-body connection. Your financial support will give her the care she needs today and into the future.”
Petway has always deserved more recognition for her storied career at Rutgers than she ever received previously. Now she needs help. The campaign has raised just over $16,000 at time of this story being published. The goal is $150,000 to cover her medical costs and recovery from this tragic accident. You can donate to Petway here.
At the end of the day, we are all part of the Rutgers community and anything any of us can do to help Petway, please do. We wish her a speedy recovery.