Aug. 5, 2014
Former Wildcat Shannon Duffy
, who helped Northwestern's women's tennis team capture three consecutive Big Ten championships and back-to-back NCAA round of 16 appearances, passed away on July 29, 2014 in Meeker, Colo., at age 35.
A three-time All-Big Ten selection (1998, 1999, 2000), Duffy posted a career singles record of 106-45, including a 34-2 mark against Big Ten opponents during the dual match season. She helped the Wildcats to Big Ten tournament titles each of her final three seasons, including a perfect 10-0 conference record in 2001. The team also advanced to the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament during her junior and senior seasons.
"Shannon Duffy was a once-in-a-lifetime player for the 'Cats," Northwestern head coach Claire Pollard said. "She was charismatic, fun and the ultimate teammate. She made sure everyone was ready to go before matches and made sure everyone was alright afterwards. Every team has a spirit, heart and soul and Shannon was all of that and some for her four years as a Wildcat. Sadly, Shannon has moved on to hopefully a better place. But her memory and spirit will live on forever in our hearts."
As a freshman during the 1997-98 season, Duffy worked her way to the No. 2 spot in the Northwestern singles lineup, posting a 31-11 overall record and, in the process, set the school's single-season record for wins. She was awarded the Lisa Ishikawa Award her senior season in 2001, presented to a "female athlete exhibiting outstanding leadership ability and selfless dedication to team goals."
Duffy, a native of Plano, Texas, graduated from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in 2001 with a degree in broadcast journalism. She went on to obtain a J.D., Law degree from the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law and became a member of the American Bar Association. In her online profile, she listed her employment and projects, including most recently as Delta Cargo Task Force Lead for Delta Airlines, and previous stops as law clerk for Ved Nanda Center for International Law, research assistant at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, legal advocate for the Center for International Law and Human Rights, and community development and education specialist for the Peace Corps.
Shannon Duffy's teammate Colleen (Cheng) Bajohr submitted the following tribute to her former teammate:
I've known Shannon ever since our junior tennis days, but it wasn't until we spent 4 years as teammates on the NU tennis team that I really got to know her. Looking back to our recruiting visit nearly 18 years ago, I don't think either of us could have predicted what was in store. We had front and center roles in the transformation of a program that became one of the top teams in the nation. We celebrated the victories, and bonded over the trials and tribulations of the journey that it took to get there. We proudly left our legacy on NU tennis together, and I couldn't have asked for a better classmate to do that with.
What will I remember about Shannon? Most obvious, I will remember her helping to clinch the first of many Big Ten titles. I will remember her intense focus and tenacity as she pulled out wins for us in marathon matches. I will remember how she would greet me with a smile and a cheerful "Chenger!" every time I saw her, even at 6 a.m. conditioning. I will remember her being faster than me, which pushed me to train even harder. I will remember the time when we were freshmen, walking the long dorm-to-stadium route in the middle of a big snowstorm with all our gear trying to make it to practice on time, while having the best talk ever about steaks and hamburgers the entire way. I will remember the long road trips that she would turn into fits of fun and laughter over topics better left in the van. I will remember the little things that she would do to pick up team morale after a tough loss. I will remember how easy-going she was off the court, and how competitive she was on the court. I will remember how she spoke exactly what she was thinking, though not always appropriate, but always followed by contagious laughter. I will remember how she effortlessly connected with children at community events, making friends with each of them as if she'd known them their whole lives. I will remember how she took extra care of her teammates when they needed a boost, myself included.
All of those memories have a common theme. Shannon was an incredible athlete that also cared a lot about Northwestern, her teammates, her family, and her friends. She approached life with an authentic and adventurous spirit, and took it upon herself to make sure that everyone around her was having a good time. She was truly one-of-a-kind.
Thank you Shannon Duffy for being a great teammate, co-captain, and friend. My experience wouldn't have been the same without you, and I'll cherish the memories forever.