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Hidden History: Stacia Hookom Gollihar

One of the most fulfilling parts of our jobs at HistoryIT is sparking the curiosity in someone to go explore a piece of history previously unfamiliar to them. The accessibility and searchability of the digital museums we build for our clients provide entry points for users to learn about any number of items, ranging from traditional events to biographies to the history of snowboarding. It only takes one little nugget of information to start someone off on their own personal journey of historical research. 

An excellent example of this lies within the Digital Composite Museums we have created in partnership with a number of our Greek Chapter clients. Most recently, 10 Alpha Phi chapters engaged HistoryIT to digitally preserve their history, which includes their annual composites — some dating back as early as the 1920s. Our team identifies and tags each individual within the composite, connecting them to any related materials across the Digital Chapter Museum as well as the digital museum created for Alpha Phi’s headquarters. This transforms a static compilation of headshots into a portal for discovery. 

The Alpha Phi Beta Gamma Chapter at the University of Colorado has used their composites to tell the story of a notable alumnae, Stacia Hookom Gollihar, the first woman to join the U.S. snowboarding team in 1994. Stacia Hookom isn’t a name that you often hear, unless you’re a snowboarding history enthusiast, but she played an important role in paving the way for equal participation in sports. 

Snowboarding began in the United States in the mid-1960s with the introduction of “the snurfer.” It slowly gained popularity throughout the ‘70s with the first competitions held in the early-’80s in Vermont. During the early years, snowboarders struggled to find acceptance on the slopes as many ski resorts banned the sport, but by 1990 hundreds of mountains relaxed their restrictions. Snowboarding saw its biggest growth yet in the 1990s with the formation of the U.S. snowboarding team in preparation for the 1998 Olympics. From there global recognition and popularity of the sport grew exponentially.

As with many sports, women had to pave their own way to find a place in the snowboarding community. Women first entered contests in the late-1980s, several years after their male counterparts. It took two years of monthly issues before the famous Transworld Snowboarding magazine featured a woman on the cover in 1989. Snowboarding gear specifically designed for women wouldn’t come on the market until 1994, making huge strides toward carving out space for women as opposed to settling for boards and apparel that failed to adequately meet their needs. And the first Swatch Ticket to Ride World Snowboard Tour didn’t offer equal compensation for men and women until 2005.

It was in this environment that Stacia Hookom took up the sport. Originally a skier, she picked up snowboarding in the late ‘80s as women had just started to receive recognition for their talents. With few snowboarders on the mountain in comparison to skiers, there would have been even fewer women trying out the sport. It took confidence and dedication to try something that was just beginning to enter the mainstream, especially with a comparatively smaller pool of participants to look up to, but she did it. 

Within three years of first hopping on a board, Stacia entered competitions and started to make a name for herself. At age 19 she joined the very first U.S. snowboarding team and began to prepare for the 1998 Olympics. She wasn’t just paving the way for women in snowboarding, she was paving the way for the sport itself. She continued to compete until her retirement in 2007, winning six National Championship titles, nine World Cup podiums and seven trips to the World Championships.

While the adventures of world travel filled the early years of Stacia’s career, she was still a young woman with ambitions beyond snowboarding. She began attending the University of Colorado after high school and was initiated into the Alpha Phi Beta Gamma Chapter in 1993. While she took a break from studies to focus on training, her Alpha Phi sisterhood supported her throughout and gave her a sense of normalcy between competitions. She later returned to finish her degree in biology and went on to become a Physician’s Assistant. It’s easy to forget athletes have lives outside of their sport, but it’s the behind-the-scenes communities who sometimes make the biggest difference. 

Each and every individual’s story has value and deserves preservation. Digital Composite Museums provide space to do just that. They provide those small sparks of curiosity that lead to countless storytelling opportunities. They serve as portals that can transport an average site visitor to a journey of exploration in history.   

Learn more about how HistoryIT can help create that experience for your community at historyit.com/composites

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