By Tyler Diedrich
Before coach Jim Crowley guided the women’s basketball program to national prominence, Mary Jane “MJ” Telford laid the foundation.
Telford, ‘75, who coached the team for 17 years, will enter St. Bonaventure’s Athletics Hall of Fame in June. She joins Jim Meicke, ‘87 (men’s soccer), and Hilary Waltman (women’s basketball, 1995-99, West Chester, ‘02) in this year’s class, announced Feb. 21.
Telford, the university’s director of volunteer relations, said she was honored when she received the news from athletic director Steve Watson.
“I was speechless and I cried,” Telford said. “It’s something that you never really think is going to happen, and when it does it’s very humbling.”
The Madison, Conn. native played basketball for Bonaventure from 1971-1975 before becoming the team’s coach and a full-time admissions counselor following her graduation. She helped elevate the program from NCAA Division III to Division II status in 1977 before resigning in 1981 to become associate director of admissions.
She returned to the team after a one-year hiatus and led the team to the 1986 Upstate Conference championship, earning Coach of the Year honors. The Bonnies joined the Division I Atlantic 10 Conference for the 1986-87 season, making Telford the school’s first full-time coach aside from men’s basketball.
Telford coached through 1993 before leaving the university to serve stints as a counselor in Salamanca and principal of Archbishop Walsh Academy in Olean. She returned to St. Bonaventure in 2000 in the advancement department before taking her current position in 2006.
Meicke holds men’s soccer program records in career wins (41) and saves (743). Waltman is the women’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer (2,106 points) and only two-time First-Team All-Conference selection.
Telford said she followed both of her induction classmates’ careers and is excited to share the stage with them this summer.
“It’s great because I’m friends with Jim and we have some mutual friends I think will hopefully be at the induction,” she said. “(Waltman) had a stellar career here as a women’s basketball player, so certainly that will be a very special day for me, for them, for our families and friends.”
Telford, now in her 27th year as a university employee, added she’s thrilled by the success Crowley and current Bonnies are having.
“They’re having a dream season, and certainly Coach Crowley has recruited a very talented group of young ladies who have great chemistry,” she said. “The program was my baby, and to develop it and to have the success that he’s been able to accomplish, I’m so thrilled for him and his team and for St. Bonaventure.”