Skip to content

Alumna One of First Women to Referee Men’s World Cup

November 26, 2022

St. John Fisher University graduate Dr. Kathryn Nesbitt ’10, a former member of the women’s volleyball team, made international headlines this month—making history as one of the first female referees in the men’s World Cup. She is one of six women refereeing in the tournament.

Kathryn Nesbitt. Photo Credit: Tim Clayton, Getty Images

The Rochester native, she earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and was a professor at Towson University, is no stranger to the world stage after being selected as one of three officials to oversee matches as part of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Nesbitt also worked as a reserve assistant referee for the 2018 MLS Cup Final.

In 2020, she was named the Major League Soccer Assistant Referee of the Year, becoming the first woman to earn year-end recognition in any of the five North American men’s professional sports leagues.

Nesbitt found her passion for refereeing early in life, serving as a volunteer at her brother’s soccer games. As her knowledge and talent grew, she began officiating for Rochester’s minor league men’s team, became an assistant referee for the National Women’s Soccer League, and eventually broke through as a Men’s Soccer League official.

In a Washington Post article, Nesbitt shared her advice for navigating the male-dominated environments of both science and officiating. “The best way to impress is to do your job well,” she said.

Nesbitt plans to return to research, but for now she is focused on the World Cup and her role in history. “This was an impossible dream for me, and just being able to witness females at this event now makes this realistic for all women,” Nesbitt told the Post.