Belmar Gunderson 1934-2023

Belmar Gunderson died May 15, 2023, age 88. She was not only a superior tennis player, despite her short stature, but a great person. We had a connection because she adopted my sister’s beagle, Ollie (long story) and gave him a wonderful and long life (she told me she never thought he’d outlive her husband…but he did).

Belmar was a member of numerous tennis halls of fame, and a recipient of the prestigious USTA “Service Bowl” Award.

Belmar was an accomplished player who reached the quarterfinals of the US Nationals (the precursor to the US Open) in 1955 and ranked as high as #2 in the USA in doubles and #11 in singles. She also graduated from University of North Carolina where she also played tennis, received a Masters Degree at Penn State and a Doctorate Texas Women’s University.

Belmar loved tennis but loved her animals and family more.

The University of Minnesota (where Belmar was the first Women’s Athletic Director) published a nice article. You can read it here.

Belmar, we will miss you.

Belmar Gunderson, Service Bowl Recipient

4 responses to “Belmar Gunderson 1934-2023

  1. Belmar was the first Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Minnesota. The Minneapolis Star Tribune posted this article to note Belmar’s passing.

    Belmar Gunderson came to the University of Minnesota in 1962 as a faculty member in the Department of Physical Education for Women. Our class of women physical education majors first met Belmar in 1965. Five decades later, we invited her to our 50th class reunion in 2019 as coach, mentor, and friend. We were always in awe of Belmar and remain appreciative of her countless contributions to our lives.

    When Belmar arrived at Minnesota in 1962, the budget for women’s extramural sports was $5.76. There were 3 sports and Belmar coached tennis and badminton. She later also coached field hockey. During her 17-year tenure, Belmar advocated for increased opportunities for women in sport, including funding and access to facilities. Thanks to Belmar’s efforts, Minnesota initiated 10 women’s intercollegiate sports in 1971. The budget for the entire women’s program was $5,000, the same amount as the budget for football coaches’ shoes. When Belmar made that discovery, she advocated for more funding for women. Thanks to Dr. Gunderson’s advocacy, the budget for women’s sports increased to $10,000 in 1972-73. Belmar also established the first scholarship fund (Patty Berg Scholarship Fund) for female athletes at the U of M.

    Belmar’s advocacy helped usher in a new era for women at the U of M and for women around the state. She has been selected to the U of M Hall of Fame and received the prestigious Legacy Award at the Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day in 2020. Belmar remains a legend at the U of M.

    • Thank you for sharing. Belmar was even more awesome than I knew. She’s really missed.

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