NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Barbara Galleher-Tonry has been Yale University's Head Women's Gymnastics Coach since its beginnings. Originally, a few female students came to the men's coach Don Tonry, a former Olympian and National AAU champion. He was willing to help, but needed support and called on Barbara Galleher. Galleher had been a tumbling and trampoline champion in the 50's. She continued the multiple sports theme among gymnastics Hall of Fame Honorees as a champion tennis player and diver as well as a champion gymnast. At the time Don recruited Barbara to help the women gymnasts; however, little did he know he recruited a wife as well.
Current head coach Barbara Tonry has coached the Yale gymnastics team since its inception in 1973. Because of her efforts and expertise, the gymnastics team has become one of the most successful teams in the history of Yale Athletics. With 15 Ivy Classic titles since the inaugural meet in 1977 and back-to-back ECAC Champion Titles, Tonry has put Yale gymnastics on the map.
In 2015, Tonry and her late husband, 1960 Olympian Don Tonry, were honored at the annual Elm City Legends dinner at the Omni Hotel. The event celebrated individuals who have made great contributions to New Haven. Coach Tonry indicated the celebration was "quite an honor, considering how many incredible people have contributed to New Haven over the years."
Tonry has continually held Yale gymnastics to a highly competitive standard, and the Elm City Legend rightfully recognized and honored her successes as a coach and her contribution to New Haven as a whole.
Through the 70's, Tonry's teams had to contend with the dwindling athletic budget, and at one point were downgraded to a club sport, which translated to less funding. The women's team and Barbara rallied. They contended that they were one of Yale's winningest teams, and their arguments were correct and strong. The downgrade was quickly reversed. With that, she has continued to grow the program for a consecutive 46 years with her passion, drive, and love for the sport.
Being an Ivy League, Division One program, Yale is unable to offer the bells and whistles that a regular Division One and even Division Two school can offer — that being academic and athletic scholarship money as an incentive for girls to attend their institution. Tonry did not pay attention to the enormous financial advantages other schools had, rather, she focused on her true love for the sport, having full confidence the girls she would recruit would match her passion for the sport.
The past two years of the Yale gymnastics program completely re-wrote the school record books. In 2017, Yale gymnastics earned their 1st ECAC Championship title as well as took home ECAC Rookie of the year and Head Coach of the Year. This past 2018 season consisted of 40 broken records, the 15th Ivy Classic title, another ECAC Title, ECAC Gymnast of the Year, ECAC Rookie of the Year, ECAC Assistant Coach of the Year, three NCAA Regional Qualifiers, a USA Collegiate National Team qualification, and a gold and silver individual win at USA Collegiate Nationals.
The entire 2018 three-month pre-season leading up to Yale's first competition, the gymnastics team was without an assistant coach. The desire and grit that Tonry and her team exemplified led them to the greatest season in school history.
Other accomplishments held by this team include: six out of the top 10 overall team scores, six out of the top 10 team vault scores, three out of the top 10 team bar scores, four out of the top 10 team beam scores, four out of the top 10 team floor scores and five out of the top 10 individual all-around scores.
Tonry is the number one Yale varsity coach that has stayed and dedicated her time and passion to this sport and university the longest out of all other varsity staff.
Aside from the team's accomplishments, Tonry has one of the finest athletic backgrounds of any Yale coach. She was inducted into Helms Hall of Fame in 1965, a member of the National Tumbling and Trampoline Hall of Fame and Texas Hall of Fame. Her all-around gymnastics talents won her a spot on the 1964 U.S. Olympic training squad and earned her All-American honors 10 times. Tonry has served on the National Association for Intercollegiate Gymnastics and the U.S. Gymnastics Federation Hall of Fame Selection Committee. In addition, she was twice named a finalist (1954, 1958) for the prestigious Sullivan Award, presented each year to the nation's top amateur athlete. In 1994, Tonry was presented with the Texas Heritage Award that is awarded to the person who has contributed significantly to the growth of gymnastics in Texas without direct service in any position that includes remuneration. It's the second highest award the Texas Gymnastics Association sponsors. Additionally, she and her late husband wrote the Sports Illustrated Guide to Gymnastics.
Yale gymnastics would not be what it is today without the collective effort of the Tonry family. They have single-handedly brought Yale gymnastics up to the incredibly high level of competition that they display year after year. Collectively, the Tonrys will have accumulated over 95 years committed to Yale University athletics and the New Haven community. They have made their mark in Yale history, and Elm City Legends recognized their contribution to New Haven sports history as well.
report by Anna Jennings '20, Yale Sports Publicity