Legendary Coach Margie Foster-Cunningham to Retire after 39 Years

The GW gymnastics coach will leave the university with several awards and a high-achieving program.

June 5, 2024

Margie Foster-Cunningham

GW gymnastics coach Margie Foster-Cunningham is retiring.

George Washington University Director of Athletics Tanya Vogel announced this week that gymnastics coach Margie Foster-Cunningham is retiring.

With 39 seasons at the helm of the GW gymnastics program, Foster-Cunningham is the university’s longest-tenured head coach and one of the longest-tenured coaches in any sport in the country. During her tenure, Foster-Cunningham accomplished eye-popping numbers.

A four-time NCAA Region Coach of the Year, and an eight-time Conference Coach of the Year between two different conferences (Atlantic 10 and East Atlantic Gymnastic League), Foster-Cunningham brought 15 teams to NCAA Regional competitions. She is retiring after almost four decades of excellence in the nation's capital. In the last two decades competing in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL), Foster-Cunningham has helped 62 gymnasts receive 172 All-Conference honors. Of those gymnasts, 23 went on to qualify for NCAA Regional competition. Additionally, 97 of her gymnasts have combined for 205 Academic All-EAGL certificates.

"For almost 40 years and in five different decades, I've had the honor of coaching some of the most remarkable women on Earth," said Foster-Cunningham. "That's not a job; it's a blessing. This program has never been about me. It's been about the women who made it what it is today.

“I'm just the fortunate one who was able to coach them and be able to see in them distinguished excellence and to be on their journey in finding the next level and highest standard to be the best that they can be in all areas of their lives,” she said. “To our hundreds of alumnae not to mention my fellow coaches and administrators—too many of them to name—you are what made my career so special. With all of my heart, I'm so grateful."

The numbers only tell part of Foster-Cunningham's story. The matriarch of the university's coaching unit, she was looked up to not just by every GW gymnast who ever wore the Buff & Blue for leadership but also by her coaching peers as she adeptly navigated through a career of changes in the NCAA landscape.

"When I reflect on Margie's storied career, I don't think about all of the success that her teams earned in competition,” said Vogel. “Margie's impact is seen in the incredible alumnae of this program who have graduated and gone on to make a much larger impact on our global society. GW gymnastics' alumnae are changing the world, and so much of that is due to the program that Margie built. We are forever grateful and wish her and her family all the very best!"

An athlete herself, Foster-Cunningham emphasized the process over the outcome, looking at life and athletics as an adventure. Inspired by athletics titans like Muhammad Ali and Vince Lombardi, her leadership quest was one of a commitment to seeking intentional excellence, demanding that all set a standard of being the best they can be.

"Margie has set the bar extremely high for being a coach, teacher, mentor, colleague and a friend. She is in a class by herself," said GW head baseball coach Gregg Ritchie. "I am so grateful for all that she has shared, taught and shown me. Margie has shown all of us how the Buff & Blue do it right, and she has done so daily in each of her 39 years, with an authentic, caring way while being one of the fiercest competitors that I have ever seen. She is a living definition of what a winner and champion look like.”

Legions of GW gymnastics alumnae identify Foster-Cunningham as more than a gymnastics coach; she was someone who prepared them for what life held in store beyond Foggy Bottom.

"Margie was an exceptional coach who took a personalized approach to helping each individual reach their full potential," said GW alumna Meena Flynn, B.A. ‘99. "She not only helped us achieve our goals in the gym but also in our personal lives during very formative years. She instilled in us the importance of teamwork, work ethic, attitude and showing up every day with energy and concrete goals. I am grateful for her ongoing guidance and support and wish her all the best in the next chapter of her life."

Foster-Cunningham also coached six Conference Gymnast of the Year honorees: Kendall Whitman, B.A. ’24, Deja Chambliss, B.S. ’23, and Cami Drouin-Allaire, B.S. ’18, in EAGL and Devin McCalla, B.A. ’02, Darden Wilee Sachs, B.S. '02, and Alexis Hrynko, B.A. ’98, in the Atlantic 10.

"Margie Cunningham Foster is synonymous with GW gymnastics," said alumna Kristie Helfrich, B.Acct. ‘97. "It is difficult to measure the incredible impact that she has made on the program and the hundreds of women that have been lucky enough to be coached by her. She has built a team and community with shared values centered on a winning attitude, unwavering commitment and a hefty dose of grit. This is her legacy, and I'm certain that GW gymnastics will continue to excel using these pillars of success."

A 1982 graduate of Penn State, Foster-Cunningham was a five-time All-American and led the Nittany Lions to a national championship in 1980. That year she was a finalist for the prestigious Broderick Award, given to the most outstanding collegiate gymnast. The Gloversville, N.Y., native represented the United States at the 1979 World University Games and helped the United States place third, its highest finish in the history of the games at the time.

Foster-Cunningham is the owner of Chantilly Academy of Gymnastics in Northern Virginia and is the mother of three adult children with her husband, Jerry, all of whom are former collegiate student-athletes themselves.

A national search for the next head coach of GW gymnastics will begin immediately.