In watching the Rio Olympics, you might have seen the ad for the University of Phoenix "Still I Rise," with the poem spoken by Maya Angelou. The ad's focus is Gail Marquis, who received her MBA from the University of Phoenix. More important, the ad features Marquis, a former Olympian, holding the hand of her wife, Audrey Smaltz.
Marquis won the silver medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics as a member of the U.S. women's basketball team.
Here is some background on Marquis and the ad:
Marquis' story serves as an inspiration. In a world that didn't recognize women's basketball as an entertaining and competitive sport, her efforts, and those of her teammates, ultimately changed the game forever. Marquis not only helped build her high school's first girls' basketball team, but she went on to gain All-American status at Queens College (NY) and play for the National Championship. She then went on to become one of the first American women to live and play basketball internationally with a French team for three years.
After receiving her World Champion title, she sought further success beyond athletics. Tackling a new challenge, Marquis thrived in another highly competitive environment: with several prominent financial firms on Wall Street, where she worked for 30 years.
"As a World Champion athlete, I know just how much hard work and dedication go into achieving your dreams - whether it be in sports, education, career or in a relationship," said Marquis. "Like many of my fellow athletes, my dreams didn't end with basketball. I took my determination to Wall Street, where after decades of success, I still wanted more. Accomplishing my educational goals has enabled me to teach other students what it takes to forge their own path to greatness."
Marquis earned her Master of Business Administration degree from University of Phoenix in 2006, after decades of success on Wall Street. Marquis earned her MBA to fulfill one more dream of hers: advanced higher education. Today, she uses that degree as Director of Community Outreach for the School of Business and the Business Development Incubator at New Jersey City University (NJ), where she acts as a liaison between the businesses and corporations and the students, empowering those coming from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds that: No matter who you are, you belong. She challenges students to step out of their comfort zone to meet those challenges.
From basketball, to business, to education, Marquis has changed the game in more ways than one. Today, she is a leader in business and the community. She and her wife, Audrey Smaltz, former Ebony Fashion Fair Commentator and CEO and Founder of The Ground Crew, continue to fight for the cause of human rights equality after winning their own marriage battle after twelve years. Breaking records and breaking barriers, Marquis embodies the gold standard that University of Phoenix is proud to graduate.