UI Hall of Fame: Gymnast 'accepting on behalf of' so many

UI Hall of Fame: Gymnast 'accepting on behalf of' so many

SALEM, Ore. — From her parents Dick and Marilyn Thies to coaches Charlie Pond and Dick Mulvihill, many people had a hand in the success that Nancy Thies Marshall enjoyed as a gymnast.

So grateful is Marshall that when she's inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend, she'd focus more attention on those who helped her career along and less on herself.

"At the Academy Awards, they might have someone standing in for someone else accepting the award, and if I were queen for a day, I would accept the award and say 'Accepting on behalf of...' because so many people in that community invested in my career and that really feels like this is more recognition of the community and what can happen when they invest in the youth," Marshall said. "I feel like I was one of the youth who was invested in and because of that I get to stand in and get this."

Marshall made the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team as a 15-year-old while a student at Urbana High School and was a the two-time Big Ten Gymnast of the Year during her career with the Illini. The 60-year-old has since left gymnastics in her past and for the past five years has served as the associate vice president for people and culture at Corban University in Oregon.

"That's a fancy way of saying I head up all the human resources initiatives and a lot of personal development with our staff," she said.

Marshall coached gymnastics when her daughter Caitlin was active in the sport in the 1990s and remained involved until about 2001. But with Caitlin transitioning out of the sport and USA Gymnastics decreasing funding for the wellness program Marshall helped consult, she felt it was time to move on, too.

That's when she got involved in people management and nonprofits that she remains active in today.

"Being connected in the community is something I learned from all the people who mentored me in Champaign and Urbana and how important and valuable that was," she said.

In Salem, where she and husband Charlie raised their children Ryan, John and Caitlin, residents are aware of how great an athlete their neighbor and co-worker was.

"Usually when the Olympics comes around, there's usually some publicity around the fact that I'm in town and there's an article or two about that," she said. "We tried really hard when we were raising our kids to keep it pretty low key because we didn't want them to feel like they had to live up to anything. I hope it stayed in the proper perspective."

The entire family will be in town this weekend to celebrate the woman credited with performing the first back ariel tumbling routine on a balance beam in Olympic competition. Marshall and Charlie made the trip to Illinois in June, too, for the Hall of Fame gala at Chicago's Field Museum.

"It was fun, it was amazing and it was a little bit other worldly," she said. "My three children have grown up loving the University of Illinois, but having lived in Oregon, they don't get to go there very often and all three of them have said how they want to go to Memorial Stadium for a football game so just sitting in the stadium with my kids and my husband, which I haven't been able to do, will be a highlight."

Her parents still live in town as well as two brothers. On this trip, she'll take time to visit with students and athletes at Urbana, a place that remains dear to her still.

"When I made the Olympic team, I was at the junior high. It was my ninth-grade year at the junior high," said Marshall, who will also visit the current UI women's gymnasts at their workout Friday. "I came home from the Olympics to start my sophomore year at Urbana. Both of those schools were huge in how they helped me not only get to the Olympics but to become a lifelong learner that took me to the University of Illinois. I'm really looking forward to connecting with students who are there now and telling stories and encouraging them on that same journey."

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sweet caroline wrote on September 27, 2017 at 11:09 am

Marcus, there's this really cool feature called "spellcheck."  You should try it sometime! 

A blatant misspelling in the title.  It's gymnast, not gymanst. 


sweet caroline wrote on September 27, 2017 at 11:09 am

Duplicate post.