Olympian Karen Stives ’68 gives back to Dana Hall

In January, Dana Hall announced a $3.5 million gift from Karen Wennbergh Stives ’68 towards the equestrian program. Stives, an Olympic gold medalist, wanted to give back to the program that helped catapult her into the Olympic Equestrian circuit.

Stives’s donation will go into an endowment, the interest of which will be used as funds for improvement. Stives hopes her donation will “enable the riding and equestrian aspects of Dana Hall to expand their resources.” The funds will go to bringing in clinicians, such as Greg Best, a successful coach and Olympic competitor, allowing the students opportunities to interact with accomplished professionals in the sport. The donation will also aid in the purchase of competition-ready horses, enabling students to participate in varying types of shows and competitions. “I want to give them a little bit more resources to implement more creative opportunities for the girls,” Stives comments.

Ms. Sarah Summers ’98, Equestrian Center Director, is excited to see the upcoming developments for the newly renamed Karen Stives Equestrian Center. “The goal of the donation is to help inspire the riders to achieve at the highest possible level,” she commented. “We want the girls to have access to people who’ve achieved at high levels and have dedicated their careers to pursuing it.” Sarah Taft ’14, who has been involved in the riding program since she started at Dana in 6th grade, is enthusiastic about the changes: “Even though I’m leaving, I am so appreciative. If the riding center has made this much of an impact on me so far, I know other girls will benefit even more in the future.”

Stives, who started riding at age seven, grew up in Wellesley and attended Wellesley High School until she was a junior. She only attended Dana for her junior and senior year as a day student. “Even though my experience was short lived, it obviously left an impact. It changed the way I looked at my studies and my future.” After graduation, Stives took time out from riding to attend Manhattanville College, where she graduated in 1972 as a pre-med major. She went on to become a successful horsewoman, competing in the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics as a member of the gold medal three-day team. Stives also became the first woman to win an individual Olympic three-day event medal. “She’s a really impressive athlete,” Taft comments. “It’s rewarding to know that such a high caliber competitor came out of Dana.”

Stives grad photo

For future riders, the donation will allow the girls to achieve at higher levels. “Stives started considering the donation about three months ago. She realized that there were students here with big ambitions,” added Ms. Summers. Erin Burke ’15, who started at Dana as a junior, is one of those students. “I came to Dana mainly for the riding program,” she said. “The amazing group of trainers that I’ve worked with since coming here have helped me progress as a rider at a very fast pace.”

Stives reports that the current program at Dana is already strong and sees no need for major changes. “I hope the donation will broaden their horizons and allow them to strive for the stars,” says Stives. Head of School Ms. Caroline Erisman expressed her gratitude for the donation. “Her $3.5 million gift to the Riding Center will help to inspire Dana Hall riders to reach for the stars and achieve at the highest levels in equestrian competitions.”

Photo, top: Karen Stives with her horse in an undated photo after her graduation from Dana Hall. Lower left: Karen Wennbergh’s yearbook photo. Photos courtesy of the Nina Heald Webber ’49 Archives in the Helen Temple Cooke Library.

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