Athletics have been a key part of the W&J community throughout the college’s history.  People of color at W&J were able to succeed both on and off the field through athletics, academics, and community involvement.  Even without much diversity in athletics, people of color were and can minimize the lack of representation and inclusion while doing well in their respective sports.  This section highlights key athletes who were important members of the W&J community.  It also acknowledges the addition of new sports teams over the past few decades and the arrival of women at the college, which has furthered diversity on campus.  

  • 1891-1892

    This page taken from the 1892 Pandora commemorates the first official athletics teams and association on campus during the 1890 school year. The first teams were Baseball and Football.  This athletics association determined the school’s colors of red and black.  

  • 1921-1922

    W. & J. vs. Washington and Lee, Not Played

    “Day of wonderful football weather spoiled when the Presidents called the Generals’ bluff. The Washington and Lee Squad went back home to attend a Klu Klux Klan meeting that night.”

  • 1922-1923

    Not just an accomplished football athlete, Charles West ’24 also participated in Track & Field at the college. As a dual sport athlete, West competed in many relays.  This particular picture is from the 1923 Penn Relays which was early events that athletes participated in. 

  • 1949-1950

    This image represents the “Four Gazelles” of the backfield.  Walter Cooper and Deacon Towler were important members of this group and helped lead the team to victory.  

  • 1977-1978

    Jaquelyn Delerme ’78 is the first known person of color to participate in a women’s sport.  Delerme played on the W&J volleyball team her 4 years of college.  At W&J she was a chemistry major and on the pre-med track.  

  • 1993-1994

    Men’s basketball is the first team with five African American starters. This picture was taken during their outstanding season which ultimately took them to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

    The 1993-1994 women’s team was the first in school history to win a PAC championship in basketball.  This team was extremely successful and went on to the ECAC tournament.  Heather Dawkins ’94 led the team in rebounds for the year with a still standing record of 313 in one season.  

  • 2003-2004

    The 2003-2004 Women’s Basketball team brought home their 6th Championship win.  Before playing in the PAC the women’s teams competed in the Pennwood West Athletic Conference.  This was an important season with senior point guard Shawndra McDonald ’04 leading the team in assist points.  This team was regarded to be one of the best in W&J women’s sports history.

  • 2007-2008

    During this softball season, our women’s team brought home a trophy with Tanesha Minney ’08 in the infield.  Minney a two-time All-PAC second team selection, helped the team  to a winning 28-12 record for the season. 

  • Present Day

    W&J student athletes have excelled in their respective sports.  From the  women’s lacrosse team to the men’s basketball team, being a student athlete at W&J means all the same.

Notable W&J Athletes

Charles “Pruner” West (1924)

Dr. Charles “Pruner” West changed collegiate sports across America. West was the first African American quarterback to play in the Rose Bowl. West didn’t only succeed in Football; he was also an outstanding track athlete and scholar. West qualified for the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris but did not compete. He was also, a two-time National Collegiate Pentathlon Champion. In 1923, West was named All-American Walter Camp Honorable Mention. He was also a captain of the track team in 1924. West was inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in 1979 after being awarded for the most distinguished Alumni Service Award from W&J in 1978. Dr. Charles West was offered a contract from the Akron Pros but denied it in order to pursue his career in the medical field. West attended Howard University medical school and became a physician. ​


Dan “Deacon” Towler (1950)

Born in Donora, PA on March 6,1928. “Deacon” had a great athletic career here at Washington & Jefferson he was a two time All-American and led the nation in scoring a wowing 133 points. He was also, an academic scholar at the college graduating Cum Laude in his class of 1950. He had a very prolific career in the NFL with the LA Rams he played from 1950-1955 and he racked up 4 pro bowls, 1 Pro Bowl MVP, and won an NFL championship with the LA Rams. In 1952, he also led the NFL in rushing yards. He netted a total of 4158 career yards in 4 seasons and 48 games. He decided to leave the NFL to become a pastor in a Methodist Church and also a mentor and a Teacher. Towler also ran 9.9 100 Yard Dash.​


Walter Cooper (1950)

Dr. Walter Cooper was a scientist, activist, and civil rights leader with the goal of championing a better world. During his four years at W&J, Cooper excelled on the football field and as a member of the Track & Field team. A chemistry major, Cooper was known for his academic and athletic excellence. Playing also with Dan Towler, Cooper was one of the members of the “4 Gazelles” and led the backfield. He also is known for his activism in the 1949 sit-in which protested segregation. These protests happened in the City of Washington.  Cooper went on to be the first African American student at the University of Rochester to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry. In 2000, Cooper was elected to the W&J Hall of Fame and in 2020 Cooper Hall (formerly Beau Hall) was named in his honor. In this image, Walter Cooper is teamed up with “Deacon” Dan Towler during the 1950 season.​


A. Michael Pratt (1981)

A. Michael Pratt was one of the most successful guards in school history. Standing at 5-foot-10, Pratt broke the single game assist record at W&J of 13 assists as a freshman.  He also went on to lead the Presidents Athletic Conference that year in assists as well. Through his athletic career at Washington & Jefferson, Pratt earned 3 All-PAC honors, and was selected to the College Sports Information of Directors of America Second Academic All-American Team. Pratt is one of only four men to earn All-American Honors. Pratt ended his college career as a 1,000-point scorer with 1,221 total points and is now 15th on the all-time points list.  After graduating from W&J in 1981 with a major in economics, he went on to attend Harvard Law School.


Gilbert Floyd Jr. (1992)

Gilbert Floyd Jr., an all-time great at W&J set the school record for interceptions for a career high of 15. He also, led 3 straight teams to the NCAA DIII playoffs, and is a member of the Class of 1999 W&J Hall of Fame. Floyd went on to attend the 1992 NFL Scouting Combine as well. In this image he is depicted with his teammates on the field during a remarkably successful year for the Presidents in not only football but many other sports.​


Mark Johnson Sr. (1994)

Dr. Mark Johnson Sr., a member of the graduating class of 1994, helped to lead the W&J men’s basketball team to the Elite Eight of the NCAA DIII tournament. As a President, Johnson is the 11th leading scorer with a total of 1.337 points. Johnson also led the basketball team to three PAC titles during his career at W&J. At W&J he was a member of the BSU and was the first African American Senior Class Commencement speaker. After college, Johnson played professional basketball in Europe and South America. After his basketball career, Johnson attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received two master’s degrees. During his time in ministry, Dr. Johnson has been a foundational member of the Baptist Church in Cleveland and New Orleans. He was also the Chaplain of the team now known as the Cleveland Guardians. Johnson has many published projects as well from his doctoral research and serves the community of New Orleans after attending the New Orleans Theological Seminary. Johnson is currently the Chaplain of the Miami Marlins and is married to his college sweetheart Heather Williams Johnson ‘95.  


Heather Dawkins (1994)

Heather Dawkins, a dual-sport athlete in both tennis and basketball, was a student at W&J from 1990-94. While on the basketball team, Dawkins lead the Presidents as the all-time leading rebounder with a total of 942 and holds the title for the most single-season rebounds (318).  After the 1993-94 season when the Presidents won the PAC Championship title, Dawkins was named the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Player of the Year. With this award, she became the second W&J women’s basketball player to earn All-America honors. While at W&J, Dawkins was a Psychology major and was active in the BSU. She was inducted into our Hall of Fame in 2004 and her name can be seen throughout the Salvitti Family Gymnasium.   


Shawndra McDonald (2004)

Shawndra McDonald, a dual-sport athlete, played on the women’s basketball team and was a member of the track & field team during her time at W&J. As a basketball player, McDonald is still the record holder with 482 assists and is currently 4th all-time leading scorer. She also was a first-team All-PAC choice for three years and helped to lead the 2004 team to an ECAC South Division III Tournament championship game. While at W&J, she majored in Political Science and Government. McDonald was also awarded the Walter C. Cooper Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2004. She later went on to get her MBA in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and works in Sales Management.