Transsexual tennis pro Renee Richards gave her alma mater quite a stir this month, claiming to be the first woman graduate of Yale University 14 years before the Ivy League college went coed.
Writing for the November issue of the university's alumni magazine, Richards -- who underwent a sex change in 1975 -- told her fellow 1955 graduates: ". . . I pride myself in this era of coeducation on being without question Yale's first (and oldest) woman graduate!"
But Yale, which officially admitted women to the undergraduate program in 1969, has no plans to amend its records. "The first woman graduated from the college in 1971," a spokesman said. "The first woman to graduate as a woman."
As a student at Yale, Richards -- formerly known as Richard Raskind -- was described by the spokesman as a scholar and captain of the tennis team. Recently, she became tennis coach to Martina Navratilova and is a practicing ophthalmologist in New York. She did not return a reporter's phone call yesterday.
"I could ramble at length on my reaction to the wild experiences of the recent past, but that would take a book to do (and it will be in print in March '83 anyway)," Richards wrote in a chatty letter to her all-male classmates, which took up almost all the notes of the class of '55. "So I shall simply make one more comment that may be of special interest to our class -- one about my role as a woman in the '80s. In our days at Yale in the '50s, it would have been much harder not only to be a woman, but to be a woman physician or a woman athlete, for sure . . . In the '70s it was different. I could be a woman physician and be strong-minded publicly and persuasive, and productive, and professionally powerful. I could have a strong body, and compete, and be aggressive on the court, and win matches. The timing was fortunate, and I am grateful that my time and place as a woman was forged by women before me."
But Yale still isn't budging. While Renee Richards might be a woman now, the spokesman said, she wasn't back in 1955. "Let's put it this way," the spokesman said. "When he graduated he was a man."