Anne Barry ’79 becomes first woman U.S. Rugby Hall of Famer
Anne Barry ’79 was inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame last weekend in Houston, Texas. Barry, along with seven other 2014 inductees, were honored for their contributions as players, coaches and administrators in the sport. Barry is the first woman to be inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame, which now includes 26 members.
Barry has been involved in rugby as a player and administrator since joining her first team in 1983 at age 26.
While Barry was always interested in sports in her youth, athletic opportunities for girls and women were not as plentiful in that era as they are today.
“I am a pre-Title IX girl, but I always loved sports,” she explains.
Unlike many of today's elite athletes, Barry was not introduced to her sport as a youngster. She was connected with rugby as an adult, but took to the sport quickly.
“My then husband was a rugby player and coach, so I was around the game because of his involvement,” Barry says. “Watching the game, I fell in love with it. Rugby emphasizes teamwork in a way that no other sport does, and it’s so fun to play.”
In 1983, Barry joined the Twin Cities Amazons, a women’s rugby club that had been formed a year earlier. She was hooked, and the sport became an important part of her life.
“Rugby consumed me,” she says.
Barry was an accomplished player, earning a spot on the Minnesota Select Team in 1985, just two years after she started playing the sport. She also played for the Midwest Select team from 1986 to 1992. She made her last competitive appearance in 1997 and retired for good in 2001.
Although she certainly made an impact on the sport as a player, Barry has made an even bigger mark on rugby as an administrator.
Barry has been a tireless advocate for rugby in Minnesota. For the last 10 years, she has served as president of the Minnesota Youth Rugby Board. In 1990, she took the role of president of the Minnesota Rugby Union, a role she filled until 2011. Barry remains a Minnesota Rugby Union board member today. Barry also recently completed a four-year term as a Governor’s appointed board member of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Foundation.
The growth of rugby in Minnesota is easy to see at the high school level. While only a couple of high schools sponsored rugby teams 15 years ago, there are now 60 high schools in the state that offer the sport.
In addition to her work in Minnesota, Barry also served as a member of the Midwest Rugby Board of Directors for 15 years (1990-2005).
At the national level, Barry was treasurer of USA Rugby from 1990 to 1998. In 1998, she took over as president, a position she held until 2002. Following her term as president, she remained a board member of USA Rugby until 2005. She is the only woman to serve as president of the organization.
When she took over the reigns, USA Rugby had little infrastructure and $4 million in debt. Barry strengthened the organization, going after grants to help develop the game. She helped lead remarkable growth in rugby, including the acceptance of the sport by the U.S. Olympic Committee, the start of a national youth rugby development program, and the creation of the Club and Individual Participation Program (CIPP).
“I am a mission-driven problem solver,” said Barry. “I like to tackle difficulties and be constantly challenged. That’s one of the things I love about rugby, it’s provided me with challenges.”
Barry has stayed connected to her rugby roots, and currently serves as General Manager for the Twin Cities Amazons as well as a member of the Governing Council for the Women’s Premier League.
Prominent government career
While Barry has been a prominent figure in the rugby community, she’s more well-known for her long and impressive career in state government. She earned appointments by four governors — Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty and Mark Dayton.
Barry currently serves as deputy commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Human Services, a position she took in 2011. Prior to that, she was the department’s chief compliance officer. From 1999 to 2004, she was deputy commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Finance, and served as acting director from 2002 to 2003. She has also served as deputy commissioner and commissioner in the state’s Department of Health.
She graduated from St. Kate’s in 1979 with a degree in occupational therapy. Barry went on to earn a master’s in public health at the University of Minnesota (1986) and a juris doctorate at William Mitchell College of Law (1995).
Barry says that while she always had a career path and she always had rugby, the two didn’t often intersect.
“Playing rugby was sort of a curiosity to people,” she said. “I’m not used to being asked about my rugby career, but with the Hall of Fame induction, now everyone knows about it. It’s been fun to share my rugby story.”
Homepage photo by Max Rugby.