Meet DePaul alumna: Mabel Landry Staton

Mabel Staton
Alumna Mabel "Dolly" Landry Staton competed in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. (DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives)

In 2011, DePaul alumna Mabel "Dolly" Landry Staton returned to campus for her induction into the DePaul University Athletics Hall of Fame. At first glance, this induction would not seem the least bit unexpected - Staton, a star long jumper and sprinter, competed in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. It makes sense that any DePaul athlete of that caliber would be deserving of a spot in the hall of fame. There is something unusual about Staton's induction, however. While Staton was a DePaul student during the height of her track and field career, she never officially competed for DePaul.

A Chicago native, Mabel Landry Staton began her track and field career at the age of 11, at first with her school's team and later with the Catholic Youth Organization. It was under CYO colors that she became a four-time national champion and, at a June 1952 competition in Pennsylvania, a record breaker. At this competition, Staton broke the American women's long jump record at 18 feet, 3 inches. This feat earned her a spot on the American Olympic team, and she quickly found herself on her way to London, where the American women's track team was preparing for the games in Finland.

Staton did not fail to impress in her performance at the Olympics. Out of a field of 160 competitors, she came in seventh in the long jump. She also continued breaking records, shattering the Olympic long jump record with 19 feet, 3 inches. This record, sadly, was held for only a short time - a competitor from New Zealand broke it later in the same round.

Mabel Staton
Mabel Landry Staton's DePaul senior portrait, 1954. (DePaul University/Special Collections and Archives)

However, Staton's track career did not end with the Olympics. In 1953 and 1954, she was the American women's champion in the now-defunct 50-meter dash. She then went on to compete in the 1955 Pan Am Games in Mexico City, where she won gold in the 400-meter relay and bronze in the 60-meter dash.

While Staton's athletic accomplishments are certainly notable, her generosity of spirit also stands out. Despite competing in national and international competitions while simultaneously working towards her degree in physical education, Staton still found time to volunteer at Sheil House, where she instructed young children. Stories abound about her using her influence as a star athlete to help her fellow teammates - from vowing not to compete unless money was also given to her teammates to compete, to replying to an offer of a flight to a competition with, "Let's instead buy a car so more girls can compete."

Staton's memories of her time as a student at DePaul focus on the people she met and the sense of community she felt.

"I just found out that people were beautiful," she recalled in an interview with "The DePaulia" in 2011. "I enjoyed that part of my life and it afforded me so many opportunities in later life."

Even her favorite memories of the Olympics focus not on her own impressive accomplishments, but on the people and community who surrounded her. She told "The DePaulia" in the fall of 1952 her favorite Olympic memory was the opening ceremonies.

"It was truly a wonderful feeling to know that for once we all bonded together in a spirit of friendship," she said.

While Staton never competed for DePaul, there is no question her athletic achievements, combined with her determination and generosity of spirit, make her an alumna of whom the DePaul community can be very proud.