By Jason Klaiber
Over the course of eight years—starting with her days at Fayetteville-Manlius High School and extending through her time at the University of Rochester—Nancy Melvin Taylor emerged as a star in the sport of field hockey.
Now plans are underway to name, in Taylor’s honor, the locker room she passed through each game day of her college career.
A four-year starter as a forward, the 1986 University of Rochester graduate became the school’s first All-American in field hockey.
As co-captain, she helped Rochester’s field hockey squad secure New York State championship titles in 1984 and 1985.
Terry Gurnett, who coached the women’s soccer team at the school from 1977 to 2010, said Taylor “had the skill to match her will.”
“She was just a superb player and a better person,” Gurnett, now the associate director of athletics at the university, said. “She was the kind of role model that you’d want your daughter to grow up to be.”
It was on November 18, 2003 that Taylor died of Stage 4 breast cancer at age 39, just over two years after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, killing her husband Kip, who worked in the headquarters.
The couple left behind two sons, who were raised from then on by Taylor’s brother-in-law and his wife.
Taylor had been inducted into the University of Rochester Athletics Hall of Fame less than a month before her death.
“Anyone entering that locker room will maybe feel her presence,” Dorie Gostin, who played field hockey with Taylor in both high school and college, said.
Gostin, a resident of Fairport, New York, recalls Taylor’s “love of life.”
On road trips out Cooperstown and Massachusetts way to face other colleges, Taylor would blare songs in the Winnebago like A-ha’s “Take on Me,” Gostin said.
Taylor was also remembered for wearing her scrimmage pinnies to fraternity parties as a fashion statement.
Gostin added, however, that her former teammate refused to drop her game face once she stepped on the field.
“She was just a very gifted and natural athlete,” Christine Joor Mitchell, a teammate of Taylor’s through those eight years, said.
Mitchell said Taylor remained humble about her individual accomplishments, which included long-standing records at the University of Rochester for most goals in a single season (17) and most career goals (50).
Their fathers introduced the two in middle school, when Taylor had been a student at Wellwood and Mitchell was attending Eagle Hill.
Both fathers advocated for year-round outdoor activity, and so as freshmen the daughters eventually joined the F-M field hockey team, which won back-to-back sectional titles with them on board in 1980 and 1981.
“Playing on the same teams together is what brought us very close,” Mitchell said.
They would often go hiking with each other outside of the fall playing season as well.
Years later, upon Kip’s death and the breast cancer diagnosis, Taylor’s circle of friends would rotate on long weekends to visit and comfort her.
Mitchell said the posthumous locker room dedication will serve as a “wonderfully fitting tribute.”
Faculty members at the University of Rochester, Taylor’s classmates in the school of nursing, her teammates and others from the Fayetteville and Manlius communities helped to raise money for the campaign.
Taylor’s legacy lives on in other ways too, like fellow F-M alum Nancy Bansbach’s donning of the same No. 23 jersey for the University of Rochester field hockey team this past decade.
Additionally the Nancy Melvin Taylor Endowment Fund, created after her passing, assists in supporting costs associated with Rochester’s field hockey program.