Karen Stives ’68 Equestrian Center upgraded with donation from namesake

Dana Hall alumna and Olympic gold medalist Karen Wennberg Stives ’68 died over the summer after living with cancer for several years. She leaves behind her legacy and a large donation to the renamed Karen Stives ’68 Equestrian Center, Dana Hall’s riding center.

Stives’s $3.5 million dollar gift was presented to Dana Hall in 2013 to upgrade equestrian equipment and spaces. The creation of new facilities and renovation of older ones, including the barn, 45 stalls, 11 turnout paddocks, four grass paddocks, and two indoor riding rings, were made possible by Stives’s funding.

The donated money was also used to create new learning opportunities for Dana’s riders, such as clinics featuring Olympic coaches and equestrians. “This summer I was able to participate in a clinic with Olympian Greg Best, who introduced me to the Jumpers,” says Meredith Rippert ’17. “I would never have thought to even enter a jumper class if Greg hadn’t suggested it. It turned out to be an amazing experience and has inspired me to push myself more as a rider and try new things. Karen’s donation has made it possible for the riders at Dana Hall to constantly better themselves through experiences like this.”

Stives obit photoBest also had kind words to offer about Stives and her impact on the Dana community: “What [Stives] has done for Dana Hall through her gift has enabled the development of a program for the students that will continue to evolve, building a unique community of talented and passionate young equestrians.” On a more personal note, he adds that his involvement at Dana Hall, which came about due to Stives’s clinics, has also influenced him as a rider and a trainer. “[Stives] has helped me realize that there are like-minded people, still involved with the sport, that love horses and understand that what we do through our teaching is so much greater than [merely] training riders.”

Stives’s donation has also contributed to funding clinics for mounted instruction and discussion groups with Olympians Bobby Costello and Peter Wylde. The Equestrian Center’s Director, Sarah Summers ’98, expressed further the benefits of the new clinics: “These clinicians are amazing resources, and the goal is for these elite horsemen to pass on their knowledge to future generations. Karen’s fund enables us to bring clinicians back multiple times each year so that our students can build long-term relationship with them, and our students are continually inspired to work harder and strive for excellence every day.”

Co-captain of Dana’s equestrian team Elsie Coen ’16 added, “Karen Stives’s donation has made a huge impact on the school program at the riding center. We now have more opportunities to participate in clinics with Olympic riders and coaches, giving us great resources to improve. We are all so thankful for Karen’s donation!”

Ms. Stives, who grew up in Wellesley, started riding at an early age and attended Dana for her junior and senior year. Excelling in Dana’s equestrian program, Stives commented later that “even though my [Dana] experience was short lived…, it changed the way I looked at my studies and my future.” She went on to win gold and silver medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, achievements that Ms. Summers says “required incredible dedication, discipline, hard work and talent.” Stives went on to represent the United States in international competitions and world championships. She earned three “Rider of the Year” titles by the United States Combined Training Association by the end of the 1980s to conclude her career as a competitive horsewoman.

Stives’s devotion to her sport and her accomplishments as an elite athlete have inspired generations of Dana students even decades after her graduation. “Every time I have a lesson, I pass the wall where the saddle blanket Ms. Stives’s horse wore upon winning the Olympics is hanging, and to someone who is still relatively new to riding and only just finishing my second show, I see it and know that there’s always opportunity at the barn. If I put in my best every lesson, every practice, and every show, I will be a better rider,” says Jackie Hayre-Pérez ’17.Stives-horse-310x206

Summers promises that Stives’s donation and dedication to the equestrian program will never be overlooked. “Karen was a larger-than-life figure in equestrian sport,” says Summers. “Her life and legacy will continue to inspire generations of young riders here at the Karen Stives ’68 Equestrian Center, and we feel so fortunate to be a part of Karen’s vision.”

Photo, top right: The Karen Stives ’68 Equestrian Center. Top left: Karen Stives competing in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Lower right: Karen Stives with her horse in an undated photo after her graduation from Dana Hall. Photo credits: Maddie Rivers; the New York Times; the Nina Heald Webber ’49 Archives in the Helen Temple Cooke Library.

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