Alumni Spotlight: Catherine Hardy Lavender, ’52

Olympian alumna earned a gold medal and helped set a world record

Apr. 10, 2018

FVSU alumna Catherine Hardy Lavender, 1952, set an American record for the women’s 50-yard dash and then went on to win a gold medal in 400-meter women’s relay racing at the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in Finland. She was the only representative of the state of Georgia that year in the Olympics. A retired educator, she died at the age of 87 in September 2017.

Catherine Hardy grew up in Carollton, GA at a time when schools were still segregated. She was a basketball stand-out in college, but FVSU track coach Raymond Pitts convinced her to try track. She quickly became a national powerhouse, setting an American record for the 50-yard dash at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) indoor meet in 1951. She was named an All-American athlete, and won the 50-yard dash, 100-meter, and 200-meter races at the AAU meet the following year. She set another American record, this time in the 200-meter run at the Olympic tryouts as she was named to the American team. She was chosen to anchor the 4×100 meter relay, leading her team to a gold medal as they set a world record and beat the German and Great Britain teams.

After retiring from racing, Hardy married the late Edward Wright Lavender, Sr., and began teaching in Atlanta, GA. She was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Learn more through the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.