Patrick Atchison, Megan Leonard, Maureen Atchison and Sean Atchison share a hug at a St. Mary’s Academy alum-nae event. Atchison is a member of the alumnae council. (Courtesy Maureen Clifford Atchison)
Patrick Atchison, Megan Leonard, Maureen Atchison and Sean Atchison share a hug at a St. Mary’s Academy alum-nae event. Atchison is a member of the alumnae council. (Courtesy Maureen Clifford Atchison)
This year’s inductee into the CYO Hall of Fame is Maureen Clifford Atchison, a groundbreaking Oregon woman athlete who gives much of the credit for her athletic success to CYO and Title IX.

Playing CYO volleyball and basketball at St. John Fisher Grade School, she said, taught her to work for the greater good of the team.

“CYO continues to serve such an important purpose today,” she said. “Youngsters are molded by the experience of being part of something beyond themselves, working toward a common goal, developing discipline — and hanging with their buddies and having fun. They’re developing important values that will carry them through life.”

When Atchison arrived at St. Mary’s Academy in 1973, Title IX was new and girls’ sports were just getting off the ground.

Title IX is the 1972 federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based dis-crimination in schools — meaning that if schools are going to fund boys’ athletic programs they need to fund athletic programs for girls equitably.

Atchison became part of St. Mary’s Academy’s fabled early basketball and volleyball teams. Each won three Metro League championships, and the 1976 volleyball team won St. Mary’s its first state champion-ship. Atchison was a team member.

Anna Maria Lopez, longtime athletic director at St. Mary’s and a high school teammate of Atchison, thinks their team did so well because of Atchison and players like her, CYO alumnae who knew how to play.

“From the very beginning Mo set an example for her teammates,” said Lopez. “Even though she was an exceptional player, she was selfless and wanted to see the team succeed. We couldn’t have had a better leader.”

Atchison noted that there was nothing material to be gained by the girls who wanted to play sports in the 1970s — no uniforms, no fan follow-ing, no scholarships to colleges for sports.

“We just wanted to play,” she said.

Title IX, she believes, was crucial to turning her good sportsmanship in-to a career.

The Oregonian began covering the new girls’ competitions, and St. Mary’s Academy’s basketball team especially was heavily covered.

After Atchison graduated from the University of Portland and inter-viewed for a position at U.S. Bank in the career development management training program, the man she spoke with remembered her sports career.

“We talked about the importance of teamwork,” said Atchison. “I’m convinced it got me hired.”

She was the only woman to be hired for that program that year.

Atchison’s daughter, Megan Leonard, nominated Atchison for the Hall of Fame, writing that “she was truly one of the pioneers that helped elevate the caliber of play in the late 70s early 80s for women's athletics in the State of Oregon. Although structure and opportunities were limited for women back then, her accomplishments were still notable.”

A few of Atchison’s many achievements on the courts include her being selected as a member of the first Parade Magazine All-American high school girls basketball team in 1977; being the first high school girl from Oregon selected to play in a National All-Star Basketball Game, the Seamco Classic in New York in 1977; and being selected several times as a member of Metro League volleyball and basketball all-star teams.

In 1977 she became one of the first three women to enter the University of Portland on an athletic scholarship. Her achievements continued at U.P.

Atchison retired in 2018 as a senior vice president at Umpqua Bank after a 37-year career in the financial services industry.