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Dunne Named a Finalist for Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award

Emma Dunne. (photos by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity and David Silverman,
Emma Dunne. (photos by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity and David Silverman,

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – One of the unsung heroes of the Yale women's lacrosse team received some recognition for being just that on Tuesday, as senior defender Emma Dunne (Oak Park, Ill.) was named a finalist for the One Love Foundation's Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award. The award, named after Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love, recognizes six student-athletes (one man and one woman at the NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III levels) who "demonstrate dedication, integrity, humility, hard work, community service, leadership, kindness and sportsmanship -- all qualities Yeardley Love exemplified throughout her life." Dunne is one of five female finalists at the Division I level. The winners will be announced in late May after an interview process.

Dunne's impact on the Yale women's lacrosse program went well beyond the field of play. Known as one of the Bulldogs' vocal leaders, she appeared in three games this season and made her first career start in the season finale. Both on and off the field, she found a variety of ways to contribute throughout her time at Yale.

"Emma is a selfless, dedicated member of our team," said Erica LaGrow, Yale's Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Women's Lacrosse. "Her service and leadership among a high-achieving group of women is invaluable.  Emma shows up and not only does the work, but also creates a role in which she makes herself and her teammates better."

As one of the Bulldogs' leaders Dunne has sought out ways to underscore the value of every member of the team, such as organizing sideline huddles for the reserves before each game. Away from the field, she fostered a deeper sense of community within the team by organizing events such as team meals and movie nights.

"She has the ability to encourage and inspire anyone on the team, even her coaches," said LaGrow.

Dunne recently became just the second player in school history to win the team's Holgate Award twice. That award, determined by a team vote, is given to "the player whose dedication to the ideals of Yale and to the success of women's lacrosse measure up to the standards set by James G. 'Gib' Holgate, a member of the Yale athletic administration from 1954 to 1985." 

With Dunne's help, the Bulldogs have improved their winning percentage from the previous season each of the past two years, and beat two nationally ranked teams this season.

Dunne's contributions to the lacrosse program are even more remarkable given how much of her time and energy she also dedicates to other endeavors. Since last fall she has served as a community health educator within the New Haven public schools, designing and teaching health education workshops in schools that lack the funding to support their own such programs. At Yale, she served as a physics tutor for ONEXYS last summer. She also spent two years working for Dwight Hall -- Yale's Center for Public Service and Social Justice -- as a member of the Student Executive Committee and as New Membership Coordinator.

Dunne has spent her time volunteering and working to serve others since her high school years. In 2013 she founded the "Balls and Books" reading outreach program, designed to increase the community involvement of high school athletic teams and to expose preschoolers to new sports and more books. After graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2014 she began serving as a counselor at Hephzibah Children's Association foster care sibling camp, spending two summers doing that.

After her first year at Yale, Dunne traveled to Peru to volunteer in a medical clinic. For the past two summers, she has worked at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, serving as clinical research assistant in the Center for Autonomic Medicine in Pediatrics.

A member of Branford College majoring in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, Dunne was an IWLCA Academic Honor Roll selection last year. She played club lacrosse for Lakeshore Lacrosse before coming to Yale.

Dunne is the first Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award finalist for Yale women's lacrosse. Yale assistant coach Colleen Smith was a finalist in 2014 when she played at Princeton. On the men's side, Yale's Dylan Levings '14 was a finalist in 2014.

The One Love Foundation was established in 2010 by Sharon and Lexie Love, as well as additional family and friends, to honor the memory of Yeardley Reynolds Love, who lost her life to relationship violence in 2010. The foundation works to ensure everyone understands the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. The "One" represents the number Yeardley wore on her jersey during her high school and college lacrosse career.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity