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She’s golden — and a Badger: Olympian Meghan Duggan to keynote spring commencement 

March 13, 2024 By Doug Erickson

This year’s spring commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is a Badger sports legend and trailblazing leader who scaled the heights of her sport, winning Olympic gold in women’s hockey as captain of Team USA in 2018. 

Meghan Duggan, a three-time Olympic medalist who also played for the U.S. National Team in eight World Championships, winning seven gold medals, will address graduates at her alma mater on May 11 at Camp Randall. 

A former professional hockey player, Duggan currently is breaking new ground as the director of player development for the New Jersey Devils, one of only a few women in hockey operations roles in the National Hockey League. 

“Meghan Duggan’s career, on and off the ice, is truly exceptional and inspiring,” says Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin. “Meghan is a born leader whose strength of character, remarkable achievements, and Badger spirit make her a terrific choice to give the charge to the Class of 2024. I’m excited to hear her remarks to our graduates.” 

Duggan, originally from Danvers, Massachusetts, earned a bachelor’s degree from UW–Madison in biology in 2011. She played for the Badgers from 2006-11, skating in four NCAA championship games and winning three. She was a first-team All-American and received the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best women’s hockey player in the NCAA as a senior. She left UW–Madison as the No. 1 scorer in program history. 

A person wearing a red and white hockey uniform skates and handles the puck on an ice rink.

Wisconsin Badgers forward Meghan Duggan (7) handles the puck during an NCAA women’s hockey game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 22, 2010 at the Kohl Center in Madison. Photo by David Stluka

After graduation, Duggan played six seasons of professional hockey — four for the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, including their championship season of 2014-15 when they captured the Clarkson Cup, and one season each for the Buffalo Beauts and the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League. 

In 2019, she joined the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in their attempts to create a new, sustainable professional hockey league, which today is known as the Professional Women’s Hockey League. She retired from both the U.S. Women’s National Team and from professional hockey in 2020. 

As captain of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, Duggan helped the U.S. capture its first gold medal in women’s hockey in 20 years. She also competed for Team USA in two other Olympics, winning silver medals in 2010 and 2014. She played for the U.S. National Team in eight International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships, winning seven consecutive gold medals. She is the only U.S. hockey captain, male or female, to captain teams on 10 different occasions. 

Off the ice, Duggan is committed to promoting equality in the game and creating opportunities for the next generation. In 2017, she led a successful strike by the U.S. Women’s National Team to achieve gender-equitable treatment in advance of the 2017 World Championship. This strike led to the team winning the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Wilma Rudolph Courage Award and being honored as ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year. 

Meghan Duggan

She recently completed a two-year tenure as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, an organization founded by tennis icon Billie Jean King in 1974 to promote female involvement in sports. She remains a board member for the organization. 

Duggan has been a member of the National Hockey League’s Player Inclusion Coalition since its inception in 2020. The coalition provides input to the league’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. She is also a past member of USA Hockey’s executive committee and board of directors. She remains close to the organization as an athlete director and member of its diversity, equity and inclusion committee. 

Duggan lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her wife, former Canadian women’s hockey player Gillian Apps, and the couple’s three children:  George (age 4); Olivia (2.5 years); and Sophie (8 weeks). 

Commencement speakers are selected by the senior class officers in consultation with the Chancellor’s Office. Gracie Nelson, senior class president, says she and her fellow officers chose Duggan because her impact on the world, just 13 years after her own graduation from UW–Madison, already has been profound. 

“Even during her college years, Meghan demonstrated exceptional athletic talent, prompting her to temporarily pause her academic pursuits as a junior to join the U.S. National Team,” Nelson says. “Since earning her degree, she has represented the nation three times in the Olympic Games and participated in eight IIHF Women’s world championships. Yet, Meghan’s influence extends beyond her incredible athletic achievements, making her biggest impact off the ice. She has worked on inclusion within the sport of hockey and continues the fight for gender equity in sports.” 

As the Class of 2024 stands on the brink of its own journey, Duggan’s words will undoubtedly inspire graduates to pursue their own greatness, enrich their own communities, and continue the fight for change, Nelson says.

Hockey players stand at attention, gold medals around their neck, smiling.

From left to right, gold medal winners Meghan Duggan, Haley Skarupa and Kelly Pannek of the United States look on during the national anthem after defeating Canada in the women’s gold medal game at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images