We partnered with Nike to create an exclusive sneaker representing our Go Do Anything campaign, Title IX’s 50th anniversary, the past, present, future of women’s athletics, and the triumphs of women everywhere. With only two pairs of the shoe in existence worldwide, the sneakers are truly special – just like the women the sneakers are meant to embody.
The person who won the auction bid for the Women In Flight Title IX Jordan One not only understands and appreciates this meaning, but is committed to telling the story behind the shoes. That person is Ellen Schmidt-Devlin, whose top bid of $10,500 secured ownership of the first pair.
“To me, this pair of shoes is about Title IX. Title IX is what gave me the opportunity to move from a small town in Oregon to compete as a student-athlete on scholarship. It gave me the opportunity to meet the cofounder of Nike and start a successful career there, and the opportunity to give back to the UO.”
If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s a well-known name in both the Nike and University of Oregon communities. In addition to obtaining her undergraduate and Executive MBA degrees at UO, Ellen also spearheaded UO’s ground-breaking Sports Product Management program.
But it’s Ellen’s connection to both Nike and the UO that brings us to this full circle moment. During her time at UO, Ellen ran cross country and track for the Ducks; after her first meet, Bill Bowerman approached her and asked if she could help rally the women’s team to test shoes for Nike. The two developed a working relationship, with Ellen coming on board as a Nike employee in the innovation lab located in Eugene at the same time Bowerman was helping her train for the 1980 Olympics.
After coming up short in the semi-finals of the 1500m at Olympic Trials (the longest distance race women were allowed to run in the Olympics at the time), Ellen returned to UO to finish her degree and find a direction for her career. Soon enough, she was back at Nike for the beginning of a 27-year tenure at the company, including time spent in Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Korea, and the United States.
Somewhere during those years, Ellen became mentor to a young female intern interested in a career in sports product – a former intern whose name is tied to the exclusive pair of shoes she now holds. Elizabeth Brock-Jones, Product Developer for Nike, worked alongside Kendal Bagby and under Tinker Hatfield’s guidance to design the WIF Title IX Jordan One.
“I knew Elizabeth, Kendal, and Tinker have been making magic for years, and I was overwhelmed by the fact that they would come together and create a gifted product for the UO.”
This isn’t the first time Ellen has gone above and beyond to support UO women’s athletics, either. Although efforts to achieve equality in gender-based sports have improved over the years, Ellen was still disappointed about gender inequity in sport, especially with media and broadcast coverage. In 2012, she produced We Grew Wings, a documentary about Oregon women’s track and field to amplify the female athlete voice by sharing their untold stories.
Owning one of two pairs of the WIF Title IX Jordan One is another step of Ellen’s journey to continue advocating for women at the University of Oregon and beyond. “The shoes I won are the dreams themselves. They allow us to tell the stories, to inspire little girls and boys to dream of their potential.”
As director and professor in UO’s Sports Product Management program, located in Portland, the shoes will also be a powerful lesson to her students. “I want to amplify the story. This isn’t a one-and-done situation. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility to own these shoes, to make sure the story doesn’t end here in 2022. I want to keep the power of these shoes alive, to keep inspiring the next generation.”
In Ellen’s eyes, the future is bright, but there’s still work to be done. “My hope is that for the second 50 years of change, we take forward an understanding that we’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.”
“We need to continue our vigilance to get true systematic change and equity for women in and beyond sports. And if we can get it here in the U.S., then we can be a model for everywhere else in the world.”
To give in honor of Ellen and Title IX’s 50th anniversary, visit our campaign donation page. To learn more about the WIF Title IX Jordan One and for updates on how to win the 2nd pair, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook at UOWomenInFlight.