The first star women’s basketball player in Polar Bear history, Nancy Brinkman Steele helped build the foundation for one of the nation’s finest programs. And, in the process, she was part of a generation of female student-athletes at Bowdoin who blazed a path of excellence for others to follow.
A tenacious rebounder and unstoppable inside scorer, Brinkman Steele was a four-year starter for the Polar Bears and became the school’s first-ever 1,000 point scorer (1,021) and still, thirty years later, remains the program’s all-time leading rebounder with 914. Her rebounding numbers break down to 12.4 caroms per game, an astonishing three rebounds more per contest than any other player in school history. At the time of her graduation, Brinkman Steele held virtually every career record for scoring and rebounding and can still be found among the top ten in eleven of those categories.
A two-time First Team All-Maine selection, Brinkman Steele led the team to a school-record 19 victories as a senior co-captain in 1978–1979, and was named Most Valuable Player of the Northeast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. Brinkman Steele’s teams won a total of 59 games and lost just 16 during her time on the court, a record that would stand as the best in program history for more than 20 seasons.
A high school standout at Mt. Blue, Brinkman Steele graduated from Bowdoin with a degree in psychology and now volunteers for the public school system in Bangor, where she lives with her husband, Erik, also a member of the class of 1979. They have two daughters, and her father, the late Dr. Paul Brinkman —a high school basketball star himself— was a member of Bowdoin’s class of 1954.