The ability of Sam Houston women student-athletes to become faster, stronger and more successful has been enhanced by a special gift by two long time Bearkat supporters in honor of the "First Lady" of the university.

The gift is from Joe and Nancy Bickley and has been utilized to purchase 10 Hammer Strength fitness apparatus for the 10 women's sports teams that compete for Sam Houston at the NCAA Division I level.

The donation honors Nancy Gaertner, wife of Dr. James Gaertner who will retire as university president August 31.

The Bickleys and the Gaertners were recognized Friday July 30 in a special women's strength equipment dedication ceremony at the Ron Randleman Strength and Fitness Center.

"As the 'First Lady' of the university, Nancy Gaertner has done so much to improve Sam Houston," Nancy Bickley said. "We are so excited to do something to help all the young women who wear the Orange and White for the Bearkats."

"When Joe and Nancy approached the university about making a donation, they asked me for ideas," Mrs. Gaertner explained. "Fitness always has been a priority for me. The idea of doing something to help the women who do such a wonderful job representing Sam Houston on the playing field seemed like the perfect solution. We hope the Bickley's gift of this equipment helps our women's teams realize how special they are. Jim and I look forward to attending their games and seeing them compete. "

Representatives of each of the women's teams attended the dedication event. Courtney Schoenemann (softball), Kym Loving (volleyball) and Jenny Zoch (track and field) joined head strength and conditioning coach Kyle Speer in a demonstration of the equipment.

"The gift of this state-of-the-art equipment will not only help us get stronger and faster for competition but also will help in injury prevention," women's basketball player Britni Martin said. "The new apparatus also will aid in the rehab process for athletes coming back from injuries and get us back on the playing field a lot sooner. As student-athletes we do appreciate this exciting gift."

When athletic director Bobby Williams approached Speer for ideas about how to use the Bickley's donation, the nationally recognized strength and conditioning coach knew exactly what he wanted.

"It didn't take long. I knew exactly what we needed," Speer recalled. "All I did was get on the internet to make sure the order numbers hadn't changed. The great thing about the new equipment is that it gives you the flexibility of free weights but the safety of a machine. Each device has multiple uses and will help student-athletes in all phases of strength and conditioning. All our women student-athletes are thrilled at the new addition to our facility."

As part of the dedication, a photograph of Nancy Gaertner and Joe and Nancy Bickley was unveiled.

"This photograph will placed on the wall of the Randleman Center so that each student-athlete will know who made this possible," Williams said. "This gift will enhance the opportunities for each of our female student-athletes to succeed in the arena of intercollegiate competition."