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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Ruth Alexander
Interviewer: H. G. Young
March 30, 1992
Y: Today is March 30,1992. My name is H. G. Young, and I am interviewing Dr. Ruth
Alexander, who is distinguished service professor of exercise and sports science at
the University of Florida. [This interview is being conducted for the University of
Florida Oral History Archives.] Thank you very much for the interview this morning.
A: Thank you.
Y: I would like to begin by having you state your full name.
A: My full name is Wanda Ruth Hammack Alexander. I have not used Wanda since I
was married a long time ago. I refer to myself as just Ruth Hammack Alexander.
Y: When were you born?
A: I was born April 17, 1938.
Y: And where?
A: In Madison County, Kentucky. From there at a very young age of about two I moved
to Radford, Virginia, where I grew up. I really consider Radford, Virginia, my home,
even though I was not born there.
Y: You identified the county. Is there a particular city?
A: It is a little town called Paint Lick, Kentucky. We lived out on a farm just outside of
Richmond, Kentucky, between Richmond and Lexington, in a farming area of
Y: But you have no memories of your life there at all?
A: Not at all.
Y: Your earliest memories, then, are from Radford, Virginia.
A: Right. That is where I grew up and went to school and graduated from high school.
All my friends and so forth that are in my memory are from that location in the
mountains of Virginia.
Y: Can you describe some of your earliest memories of Radford, Virginia?
A: Well, I was the youngest of four. My sister was married--she is quite a bit older than
I, and she married young--so I grew up with two brothers. I just remember playing
whatever they played. They always took me along to ball games or whatever.
Whatever the guys were doing, I did. I remember my early childhood games were
just running around with my two older brothers and playing whatever they did.
Y: Can you give me the names of your sister and your brothers?
A: My sister's name is Jackie (Jacqueline); my brother Larry, who is no longer living;
and then my brother Denny, who is just two years older than I. He and I were very,
very close. Most of our early growing-up fun and games and education were there.
Y: You grew up with your brothers, but your sister was married.
A: My sister married and went back to Kentucky.
Y: Can you tell me about your earliest memories of going to school?
A: Well, I always loved school. I loved school so much that I would come home and tell
people I always wanted to be a teacher. I would come home--I was in second or
third grade--and play school, and I was the teacher. I would take all kinds of tests
and pretend that there were kids, and I would draw all kinds of pictures and put them
up on the wall like I was doing a bulletin board display. So from my earliest years I
saw myself as a teacher. I enjoyed playing school after I got home from school. I
have always loved the classroom.
Y: But in addition to that you say you played all sorts of games with your brothers as
well, so sports [also figured significantly in your early life].
A: I played ball. I learned to play basketball with a tennis ball in the basement of our
home. We took a little paint can rim and attached it to a piece of plyboard--that was
the basket. Then we took my hair net--hair nets were popular then--and tied it
around the paint can rim. I used a tennis ball, and I learned to dribble with the
tennis ball and shoot for accuracy and so forth.
Right across the street was a kind of hollow, and we played softball there. It was
great that it was a hollow, because the ball would not [go out on the street]. You
had to hit a really high ball before it would ever go out in the street. It would hit the
hill and roll back down. So I learned to play softball or baseball with my brothers
Of course, we had a public swimming pool, and we swam almost every day. I lived
in a small town of about 10,000 people, and we went swimming almost every day in
the summer. Then across the street and down a block was a tennis court, and I had
my own tennis racket and old tennis balls. And bicycling. You know how kids
bicycle for transportation, but we used to bicycle just for the fun of it. We would go
for long bike rides after school. We would ride, and it would be close to dark when
we got back home. And roller skates. I will never forget roller skating on the
sidewalk. I remember doing all of those kinds of things after school.
Y: So these were all recreational sports [that you did] with your brothers, with your
friends and neighbors and that sort of thing.
Y: What about organized sports? Obviously there were sports [like] Little League and
such for your brothers.
A: But nothing for little girls, except for just going to playgrounds in the summer where
there would be the activity for the day. They would always let the girls play in the
activity. And we had a recreation center where we could go and shoot basketball.
But there was limited organizational competition; I remember that. I did play an
awful lot of what we called Ping-Pong, which is officially called table tennis. I may
have been the best girl in town in table tennis. I played with my brothers and the
guys. I got in tournaments there; there was an opportunity there. But we really did
not have any opportunity until I went to high school.
The first year I was in high school they had women's varsity basketball, and had had
for several years. They played the preliminary game to the men's game. Having
learned to dribble with a tennis ball, I was good enough to make the varsity squad in
my freshman year in high school, my ninth grade year, so I traveled with them on
the bus and so forth. I did not get to play much, but I got to be with the team and
My sophomore year they discontinued it after years of having women's
interscholastic basketball. So it reverted then to a totally intramural activity. We did
have a wonderful intramural activities program. We had competition and round robin
tournaments in every sport imaginable, and I participated in all of them. I received
all the top intramural awards. That was back in the days when there were divided
courts, with three forwards and three guards. It was not as fast a game. I was tall,
maybe the second tallest in the school, and now I am too short to play guard and
other tall positions. I was 5'7"--still am. I grew to be 5'7" when I was fifteen and
have not grown a fraction of an inch since. But I was considered tall at that time. I
am too short by today's girls' basketball standards.
Y: Let us go back just a moment. The year that you started playing basketball when
you were a freshman was what year?
A: Let me see. I graduated in 1956, [so] it must have been 1952 or 1953.
Y: And at that time there was a women's basketball program in Virginia, and
particularly at your high school, but you said the following year it was discontinued.
Just at your school?
A: No. Well, it was not comprehensive, but a lot of schools started dropping it.
Y: What was the reason for that?
A: Funding, probably, or the absence of funding. I do not know. It was very popular.
By playing the preliminary game for the men's game, it drew the same crowd. Some
of them might have come a little later for the men's game, but it drew a pretty good
crowd. As I said, we played our full season with the men, so all the schools we
played had girls' teams. So it was just probably the funding. We never really knew
why it was discontinued.
Y: What kinds of reactions were there from those of you who were students, as well as
parents in the community?
A: Oh, there was no outrage or kind of reaction you might get from today's parents.
When the University of Oklahoma (or was it Nebraska?) discontinued women's
basketball the legislature reinstated it. Pretty much what the school did was left [up]
to the school. We did not get any kind of protest nor outrage. The school said they
were not going to do it, and the reaction was: "That's fine. That's too bad, but we'll
do something else."
Y: But the school, to compensate, at least developed a fairly comprehensive intramural
A: Yes. We had probably the finest intramural program that I have ever seen, at that
time or since. For example, we not only would have a volleyball intramural schedule
and play volleyball, but we would have competition and activities which enhanced
the skills in volleyball. We would have a volleyball wall [contest]. There were lines
on the wall, and you were supposed to set it back and forth at certain places. In
basketball, not only were we having [game] competition, but we would have an
intramural foul-shooting contest. At the time I did not realize it, because I just did
everything we could do, but they were activities that [not only made us practice for
that contest but [that also] enhanced our skill in that sport and made us play the
You wanted to enter everything because you got so many points for entering
everything in the competition, so many points every time you won, and then so
many bonus points for making it to the final four and winning. They tallied that in a
cumulative process. So your objective was to get 2,500 points and earn a letter. I
entered everything, and I think when I graduated I had 4,000 points. I had gotten
my 2,500 points early in my junior year, and they had to create a new award level
because there were a few of us who just entered everything. We just participated
Another thing which enhanced it was that Virginia required four years of physical
education for both boys and girls, and you could not graduate unless you had the
credits for those four years. So everybody--not just certain ones, the stereotypes or
tomboys or certain kinds of people--took physical education. Every girl in the school
and every boy in the school had to take it. As a result, you ran into the same groups
of people participating in sports. It was just kind of a way of life. Your friends
participated. It was just something that everybody was involved in.
Y: You mentioned basketball and volleyball. What other sports [were represented in
the intramural program]?
A: Well, back then we did not have a lot of individual nor dual sports in the schools.
They did not have facilities for them. They did not have tennis, and they did not
have golf. They had some track and field, but there were no individual sports, like
swimming. It was primarily team sports-- softball, and [some] track and field. We
had a lot of fall sports there for women that they do not have here. We had
speedball, soccer, field hockey, and a variety of [others]. Now, I am sure they had
lacrosse, because they had lacrosse for women in those northeastern schools. So
those were many of the sports that we had.
Y: What were the perceptions of both the male and female students of women's
involvement in sports in the 1950s?
Y: Just in general. Was that the thing to do or not to do?
A: I always thought everybody was the same way, because all my friends were.
Academically it was just the conception to make good grades, and you did whatever
it took to make good grades. Now, you did not make straight A's, but you made
good grades. Then, as you neared graduation, it was not whether or not you were
going to go to college but the choice of where you were going to college. It was not
as if you had an option. Now, I grew up in a home where my mother and my father
both had about a sixth-grade education. My father was a barber, and he had gone
to barber's school. But he had really never even gone to high school. Neither had
my mother. They grew up in the pre-Depression years, and they wanted all of us to
go to college. They really did not care, nor did not have the skills, to help us choose
where [to go] or what we wanted to be like we have done for our kids. But it was
just a matter of going to college and going somewhere that we could possibly afford.
I did lose my mother; my mother died when I was twelve, so I more or less became
the woman of the house. I had my two brothers--they were two years older and five
years older--and my dad. I was the housekeeper. Of course, we did not have the
income to hire anybody to come in and help, so I was the housekeeper, and I did all
the laundry and the ironing and the cooking from the time I was twelve until I
graduated from high school. Some people say that maintaining a large family is a
full-time profession; I have been doing that since I was twelve years old. I did that
for my father and still was involved in anything I could get involved in in school. I
made good grades.
Y: Now, when you were in high school, you say your father wanted very much for you
to go to college and supported that.
Y: Thinking about that decision and also having these responsibilities at home, taking
care of things, going to college was certainly going to interrupt that or upset that.
A: Well, I was the youngest. The last two years, my junior and senior years, it was just
my dad and I. My brother Denny had gone to college on a football scholarship at
Wofford College in Spartenburg, South Carolina. My brother Larry had been more
upset than any of us over the death of my mother--he was seventeen at the time--so
he enlisted in the navy. That was kind of the current thing to do. He did not go to
college [until later]. (Men joined a branch of the service.) He was going to be in the
navy for four years and then come out and use his GI Bill to go to school, which he
did. So Denny was already in school, and it was just my dad and I. Probably, if my
dad had not remarried my senior year in high school, I would have stayed home and
gone to [what is] Radford University now (Radford College then), but by his
remarrying I decided to go away to school. I could have stayed right there and run
my dad's home for him and gone to college there, because Radford University was a
fine school. The opportunities and so forth were there for me as well.
Y: You were a senior in high school when you were starting to think about college.
What kinds of thoughts did you have, and what decision did you make?
A: Well, I was a very good student. I think I graduated eighth in my class, so I had the
grades. [When] I think back and think of a few disappointments, one was that if I
had had the guidance at home--he just did not have it, and he did not have the
money, either--I would have loved to have gone to Duke. I was also a Methodist.
My two choices were Milligan College [in Milligan College, Tennessee] and Emory
and Henry College [in Emory, Virginia]. They were within two-hours' drive from
home. [I was interested in] Emory and Henry only because I had been Methodist
and had spent a lot of summers at youth camps there, and they gave Methodist
church members a slightly reduced fee. Then Milligan College was there, and I
looked at Milligan College because there was a wealthy state senator who lived in
Radford by the name of Ted Dalton. He [Webb Sutton] and his wife had met at
Milligan [and] had married there. They had died, and this lawyer-senator in town,
Ted Dalton, managed all his monies and estate. He had set up a scholarship for
Radford High graduates that if they would choose Milligan and if their grades met
[the standard] they could qualify for a Sutton scholarship. My dad and I, not having
the finances to send me many places, were looking for the best economical
situation, so I applied for that scholarship and got it. It was cheaper to go to Milligan
than Emory and Henry, so I went to Milligan. Those were my choices. I tell my sons
(one went to Cornell, another one went to St. Lawrence, one graduated from Yale
and one from Trinity), "Your choices are so different than mine. I had two choices,
and it was based on the cheaper one and not the better school." They had been
able to make the decisions based on what they wanted to study and what was the
Y: Tell me a little more about other choices for women at this point in time. The
University of Virginia apparently was not an option.
A: Oh, the University of Virginia, as you know, was not even coed until the 1970s. The
state university system was mostly male. The women's schools were Randolph-
Macon [Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia]; Madison, which is now James
Madison [University in Harrisonburg]; Longwood [College in Farmville, Virginia];
Mary Baldwin [College in Staunton, Virginia]; and Mary Washington [College in
Fredericksburg, Virginia]. Not being state supported, they were extremely
Two things. I really did not want to go to an all-women's school. I had grown up
with brothers and was very comfortable [around men]. I had lots of good friends
who were guys. I think I had an advantage over a lot of girls--sometimes a
disadvantage, because I would not get to date sometimes the ones I wanted to date
because I was a sister or a good buddy to them--because I learned in life very
young, very early, how to get along with both sexes, work with them, play with them,
and be friends with them. Today that is not always the case. Some people are
strained in their relationships with the opposite sex. I had a great advantage in that I
had lots of good friends who were boys. I did not want to go to an all-girl school. I
just did not think that I could tolerate just women day after day after day. So that
was one choice: I did not want to go to a school where it was just all females.
Secondly, most of them were awfully expensive because they were not state-
I did not know what I wanted to be, except probably a teacher, but I did not know
what I wanted to teach. I never thought of being a teacher of physical education. I
always thought that I would participate in that, but [I thought] I would probably teach
English. I was good in English, and I did minor in English. Teaching was one
[choice]. I was very good in English; I made straight A's in English. I knew grammar
up one side and down the other. I just really did well in English. So I probably
thought I would be an English teacher, but I did not know for sure. I had not made
up my mind.
Y: Tell me about starting college. What was it like? What kinds of early memories do
A: Well, college for me, in the beginning, [was something that] I really did not enjoyed.
I went to [Milligan, which was] a church school, Church of Christ, a very
conservative religion, more conservative than my religion. Back then they were very
conservative with women students. We could not be out past 10:30. There was
only one night a week that we could go anywhere at all. On Saturday nights we had
to be back by 11:30; in exceptional cases we could be out until 12:00. Of course, I
had had more freedom than most females because I was running the house. My
dad was not strict with me. I could have stayed--I did not, but could have--out all
night. He would never have known, because he worked hard and slept hard, and I
could slip in and out. But I did not, basically because the people I ran with were not
that kind of people. It was a small town, and there was not a whole lot to do; it
would close up at 6:00. But I had the freedom to kind of come and go as I pleased.
When I went to college I went to a school where you did not [even] dance. Dancing
was a big part of my high school. We used to have dances [on] Friday nights. So I
really was not happy [at Milligan at first]. I never thought of leaving. I just adjusted.
I did not adjust fully for a couple of months. I hated it for the first semester. But then
I got involved and started playing sports and was a cheerleader and joined clubs. I
had no academic problems; I did well. So I adjusted. You can adjust to whatever
you have to adjust to.
Y: At a certain point you had to make a determination about a major. When did you
make that choice?
A: I did not decide on a major probably until my junior year in college. Of course, in a
liberal arts college I had so many liberal arts classes. It was such a conservative
religious school that there were a lot of religious course requirements. I enjoyed
that. In fact, I ended up with a double major in religious education and health and
physical education, and minors in English and social studies. I had had so many
religion courses. We had Old Testament survey and New Testament survey and
[Life of] Christ and on and on as were requirements, so it was just a matter of taking
two or three more courses, like church history, which was very interesting, and the
Restoration movement, which [was a] tremendous [course]. The most interesting
courses were left [to take], so I had decided that I would take those and finish a
major [in religious education] as well. Then I completed my major in health and
physical education and a minor in English. I ended up with so much history and
social studies I had a minor in that, too; that was by accident. I really did not decide
that I wanted to teach health and physical education until I was about a junior in
Y: Let me back up for just a moment. In terms of the religion courses there, you said
you grew up in the Methodist church, and this was a Church of Christ college. Did
you find any contradictions or have any problems with the religion study?
A: Oh, yes. One thing I did do when I went to school was get a part-time secretarial job
to help pay for expenses, so I worked part time the whole time I was in college. I
was good enough that I worked for the dean of the college. It is not like there were
a whole lot of deans. There was one academic dean. That gave me some ins and
outs with the faculty.
They all knew I was a Methodist, and they all set out to convert me to Church of
Christ. Milligan is about four miles outside of Johnson City, and if you had a car you
could go in [to town to attend Methodist church services]. Kids did not have cars
back then. There was a Church [of Christ] right on campus. I had always gone to
church, so I went to their church. They all felt sure that they were going to convert
me to their ways. There were things like I had been sprinkled instead of immersed
when I was baptized, and they said I would never get into heaven [that way]. It got
to the point that they teased me. Of course, they took communion every Sunday,
and I always took communion with them because we believed in our church that you
could. We take communion only on special [occasions]. Basically we just had
methods of difference, [like] how you baptize. There were no real beliefs in the
Scripture that were much different. My roommate was a very conservative Church
of Christ member. I roomed with her for four years, and we almost developed a
sister relationship. We used to argue religion a lot, but finally it did not matter
anymore. I did not see many differences in hers, and she did not see much
difference in mine. They thought it was really funny, though, that I was not even a
member of their faith and I got a major in their religious [education] program. But it
was kind of fun.
Y: Was there any particular event or influence that led you to physical education, then,
as a final choice of major?
A: Well, I excelled in it. I remember I had a final exam in a course called Team Sports
for Women. I was taking religion and English, [so] I had so many literature classes
and so on to study [for]. I studied very hard for those, and I did not even study for
this one [the Team Sports exam]. I went in and made 100 percent on it. I
remember walking down to our little post office [to mail a letter that] I had written my
high school P.E. teacher. I said: "I just made 100 on a final exam in Team Sports for
Women. Well, I had not [been able to] study [for it]. I guess I owe it all to you and
the way you taught. You always taught the sport, the rules of the sport, the
dimensions of the field." We had to know all that, and I said, "Thanks." I think that
was when I decided that I just knew so much about it that I was really kind of an
expert--a small-time expert, anyway--without studying. I could tell you the
dimensions of any field. I thought that if you were an expert, that might be the area
that you should pursue.
Y: What was your teacher's name?
A: Mickey Clement. She just recently died. She went from there [Radford] to teach at
Mary Washington for a long time. She died maybe a year or two ago of cancer. We
have a little program in our National Association of Sports and Physical Education
that if you donated ten dollars [in someone's honor], they would send certificate of
appreciation to anybody that wanted [to recognize]. About five or six years ago I
had her sent a certificate. She had written me a long letter telling me that she had
retired and how much that meant to her. From those roots I began my interest in
Y: What about sports participation when you were in college? Did the Church of Christ
college in the 1950s have a women's sports program?
A: They did, but we [only] had a lot of play days or sports days where we would send
volleyball teams over to East Tennessee State [University in Johnson City,
Tennessee], and another time we would go out to Memphis State. There were
about eight or ten teams, and we had a big, all-day kind of round robin play day. We
did that in basketball sometimes. But we had intramural programs, and I always
played on all the intramurals.
It was not quite enough for me and for another girl from Indiana, Joanne Swimford.
We both loved basketball so much. She found out about a league in town that
needed women basketball players. She had a car, and she asked if she could sign
me up. I said sure. The league in town was over in the rough section of town, and
the team we played for was called the Pepsi-Cola Girls. We had to get special
permission, because sometimes the games would not start until 10:00, from the
dean of women, who was basically a social dean, to go and play. She gave us
permission and waited up for us until we came in from that section of town. We
would come in, and, oh, she would act like a mother.
They [the town teams] played by different rules. They still had a divided court, but
they had unlimited dribble. In our intramural program we had divided court, but we
could only dribble twice. So some nights I played two games; I played an intramural
tournament on campus, and then I would go to town to play. It would be so dirty [in
town] that if you fell and skinned your knee it would get infected before the game
was over. But it was a chance to play. None of the other girls on the team went to
school, and they were kind of rough. They never bothered to learn your name.
They would just say: "We play tomorrow night at 9:00. Are you going to be here?" I
would say, "I will be here." [laughter]
We played through the gold medal tournament; we won the gold medal in that gold
medal tournament with this team. There was no interaction at all. You talk about
cohesiveness and playing together: we did not even know each other's names. We
would play in gold medal tournaments and win them. Those were early experiences
with limited sport opportunity. I loved to play, and we just saw an opportunity to
play. Then we would get in at midnight from those games, and the dean of women
would be sitting there waiting on us until we got in, and she would let us in. I guess
she trusted us or they would not let [have] us go to start with.
Y: Throughout your high school and college career, really, the opportunities forwomen
in sports were essentially nonexistent.
A: Nil. Just nothing. Girls today have no idea how [far things have come]. It is not that
long ago. It is not like the pre-twentieth century. The guys just were getting started
in the late 1800s. We did not get started [until much later], and it continued that way
throughout the 1960s. I graduated from college in 1960, but when I taught in high
school and in my early years of teaching at college, up until the late 1960s or early
1970s, there just was no opportunity to participate.
Y: Let us talk about finishing college now. You have been there, you have learned, you
have studied a variety of things, you are graduating, and now it is time to make
another decision. What happens next?
A: I did pretty well at Milligan. I was homecoming queen, I was [listed in] Who's Who
Among Students, and on graduation day I was selected the most outstanding
graduate of the class. Usually a guy won that, but I got it. That comes to mind
because I was visiting Milligan with one of my sons two years ago. We went over to
one building at the school and walked down this hall, and there was my name on
this plaque [which listed all of my academic accomplishments]. Even in 1987 I was
given a distinguished alumni award. I was real pleased [and proud] that I could take
a son [to see it]. I did not think I would ever have any of my sons back there
because there would be no reason for them to go there for a visit.
Looking back, I worked hard and I stayed busy, but I was very successful and did
well. So from that I thought I would go to graduate school. I had gotten a job
teaching at Danville High School. I had chosen Danville High School because the
summer before I had done my student teaching there, and they had wanted to hire
me. I did my student teaching in English in the summer.
Y: This is Danville, Virginia?
A: Danville, Kentucky. My sister lived there. Remember, my married sister had moved
back to Kentucky a long time ago, so I had gone there and spent a summer with
them doing my student teaching. They offered me a job teaching health and
physical education and English. I had three classes of each. So I had just accepted
it and was going to Danville, Kentucky, to teach. I said I wanted to start my master's
that summer . [I figured] it cannot be much harder than undergraduate, so I
applied to the University of Kentucky, which was thirty miles away. I was accepted.
I enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed students and the relationship with students. I found
that lots of them wanted to talk to me not only about academics but personal
matters. I did not feel I was equipped to handle some of their personal problems, so
I decided to study counseling and guidance. I pursued that area in my master's
degree. I enjoyed teaching. I was there in Danville for a year and a half. I left
Danville because I got married. I met my former husband there; he was a senior at
Centre College. We met a short time after I arrived in Danville, and we were
married the next year. I left to join him.
Y: So you finished your master's then, during that time period?
A: No. I did not go full time; I just went in the summer. Before I married I had two
summers of master's [work], so I needed about fifteen more hours. We got married
on Thanksgiving weekend, and then I joined him in January. He had graduated from
[Centre College and was at] Western Kentucky [University in Bowling Green] for his
master's, so I joined him in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in January, at the mid-point in
Y: What year was that?
A: I married in 1961, so it must have been January 1962 that I moved to Bowling
Green, Kentucky, and enrolled in six hours [at Western] while we were there. We
were there only from January until the fall. I completed six hours there which I
transferred back [to Kentucky] for my master's. But I did substitute teaching in the
schools in that area.
Then I got a job, with my religion background, about a month after I got there as
director of religious education at the State Street Methodist Church there in Bowling
Green, which turned out to be a good situation, rather than traveling all over doing
substitute teaching. After a while I found out I was pregnant with my first child, and
it was an easierjob for me physically to have during pregnancy while we were in that
Y: So you are in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Let us just pick up right there. What
A: Well, my former husband, [Samuel] Kern, completed his master's there in the
summer, and I continued to work at State Street Methodist Church. Then toward the
end of the summer our first son was born. We named him Samuel Kern III, and we
moved to Louisville. I had a job teaching at Valley High School, which was the
largest high school in Kentucky at that time. It may still be. I did not get to teach in
my major area because they did not need a physical education teacher, so I taught
English and remedial reading. I had never taught that, but I had taught some
remedial English. They did not have a lot of teachers trained to teach remedial
reading [there], and they were just trying to pick up on teachers who might could
handle it. They gave me some remedial reading [classes], and I learned a lot and
did fairly well. I did not feel as good doing that type of subject matter because I just
was not trained in it. Again, I like to teach something that I feel like I am an expert
in. It gives you such confidence to teach it. But I learned a lot from it. I learned a
lot about reading and reading skills and academic systems in general. Kern went on
to the University of Louisville to get a specialist [degree].
About midpoint in the year I found I was pregnant again [laughter], so I taught the
rest of that year there and through the summer. He [the baby] was due in October,
so I did not teach the following year. Kern began to teach that year. He had
completed his specialist [degree]. Our second son was born in October. So I had
two little boys there within fourteen or fifteen months of each other. We named him
[our second son] for my father, King Alexander. My son gets teased about his name
to this day. Of all the sons I could have tagged with it, he handles it very well.
So Kern was completing his specialist that year, and we both started talking about a
doctorate. During that process I had finished my master's. I do not remember it as
very hard to do. I remember that the year I taught and was pregnant with my
second child, I drove all the way to Lexington, which was about a ninety-minute trip,
to take classes in an effort to complete that master's. I eventually finished it. I kept
getting farther from Lexington, and it was getting harder and harder to do the work. I
eventually finished it and became certified in counseling. In my graduate work I did
some counseling, and that helped when I was doing remedial reading. I did not
enjoy it as much because at that time it [counseling] was mostly test taking and
record keeping. I had taken the counseling degree because I thought that I wanted
to be in a position to do some personal counseling. But I found that teachers, and
especially physical education teachers, have more opportunity to do personal
counseling than actual counselors, who are so tied up in bookkeeping, record
keeping, test giving, and test interpretation. I was a little disappointed in that, and so
I really did not pursue the field of counseling too much.
We decided to apply to Indiana University in Bloomington, which was only two hours
north of Louisville. I remember going up to take their entrance test. They had their
own entrance graduate test instead of the GRE [Graduate Record Examination], and
they give it only certain times. I took it in the summer, maybe August, a year before
[going to Indiana University], when I knew I was going to have a baby in October. I
was sitting there taking this difficult test--being pregnant--at a time when pregnant
women did not do a whole lot. I felt so tired and so hot, but I did well enough that I
was accepted to work in educational psychology. Kern had received a graduate
assistantship, which would pay some, but it was not enough [for all of us], so I
applied in high schools in the area to teach. I had gotten a job in Brown County. I
had not confirmed it, but we went up in the spring of that year  to check on
housing and things like that and to look at Brown County. It was about thirty miles
away. I had two little babies, a job thirty miles away, and work [to do] on my
doctorate. I thought, Gosh, I do not know if I can swing that or not.
I had also applied at the School of Health and Physical Education at I.U. I had an
interview while I was there, and they hired me as an instructor, which was great,
because I could just remain in town and have the flexibility of a college-teaching
[schedule], as opposed to 7:30 to 3:30 teaching in a high school. We were able to
rent a house two blocks from campus, so I walked to classes and walked to work.
We hired an older woman with good references who came to my home every day.
That has been something that has always been foremost with me. I have never
taken my kids out [to daycare]. I always hired help at home so they [the boys] could
sleep in, stay at home, and that sort of thing on every kind of job [I had]. I have
been very grateful for that. I taught a full load and took a full load. I had to take
sometimes as many as nine hours each semester.
Well, I could not do my doctorate in the physical education school because I taught
there, and they did not like for you to "inbreed." You could take courses there. I had
been admitted to education. I did not want to pursue the counseling because I was
not happy with counseling, so I looked for a field that would complement counseling
and physical education, and I chose educational psychology because it had so much
to offer with personality theory, learning theory, statistics, and research. I said,
"Gosh, I can use all of that in anything." That became my major. You had to have
an inside minor, [also, and] since I already had a master's in counseling, I almost
had an inside[-the-college] minor in that completed. Then you had to have an
outside[-the-college] minor. I could not choose physical education because I was
teaching in the department of physical education, but I chose health education,
which was in a different department. I chose it as my outside minor. In the process
of completing the work for my outside minor, I went ahead and took the exams,
wrote the paper, and completed a specialist in health. I finished that in 1965 before I
left the campus. So that was my third degree.
We were there only the year. Kern got a job in the [Kentucky] state department of
education in his area of education administration. His father was the deputy state
superintendent of public construction in Kentucky, so he was kind of following his
father's footsteps. He got a [good] job with the state department of education in
Kentucky. We moved back [to Lexington] in June. I needed to stay [in Bloomington]
until August  to finish summer school and take all my comprehensive testing.
Then I applied for work [in Kentucky]; I applied throughout Frankfort, and I applied at
the University of Kentucky as an instructor and director of women's intramurals and
extramurals. I got it, so we decided to live in Lexington, and he would drive to
Frankfort, which was not that far--but far enough. So I taught the next year [at the
University of Kentucky]. I guess we are in 1965/66. I taught in Indiana in 1964/65,
and I was in charge of women's activities at the University of Kentucky from
1965/66. We lived in Lexington. I had done all the course work, but I had not
completed my thesis [for my doctorate at this time]. I completed my thesis while I
was there at Kentucky. I did a study using Sheldon's body types and self-
adjustment of personality. I tried to relate physical parameters with psychological
parameters. I completed that by the fall of the next year.
Y: So you were at Indiana just one year. You were both a faculty member and a
A: He was a graduate assistant student [at I.U.], and I was a faculty member.
Y: That is what I meant. You were a faculty member, but you were also doing some
doctoral work--and being a mother.
A: The mother of two children. I remember my dean said, "How are your kids?" I said,
"They are fine." He said, "How old are they?" I said one and two. He laughed and
said, "They could not be much younger." I said no.
Y: What about perceptions of you at this point in time? Now it is not uncommon for
women to be in school and to be working and raising children, but it is very unusual
for that time, and I just wondered about the perceptions of others.
A: Well, they never said anything. I had feelings of guilt that maybe I should not be
doing this, but I had a great relationship with my kids and was close [to them]. I did
the extras. I went home for lunch every day. I did not eat with friends; I went home.
I was there at lunch and I was there at dinner. I did everything I had to do at the
library during the main part of the day. When she [the sitter] was there they were at
the age at which they slept most of the afternoon, and then [they] would play and
watch TV. I knew what it took to be a good mother. My time with them was quality.
They never went to bed without a story. There was just a certain number of things
that I did, and even though I was tired I did them because I felt that I should. That
probably also took care of [some of my] guilt.
As I say, I was there for them. One time I had a 7:30 class, and I was [up and] gone
at 7:15. I would take them places [with me]. They always went to the grocery with
me. I think those things are as important as taking them [specific] places for fun. I
think they just need to move around with you. When I went shopping, leaving them
at home would have been the easiest way, [but] I went out of my way to make sure
that I spent time with them and that it was quality time, not [just] quantity [of] time.
But I also realized that such a hectic schedule would be over once [I finished my
education], that I would not be going to school all my life. I almost had my master's
before I even married. A lot of people go through undergraduate school with
families. It would not be so tough in two or three more years. Then all I had to do
was go on [with life]. I could get positions that I could arrange my time around them
for a lifetime. So that kind of kept me going.
Yes, it was tough. That last summer I was there I knew [it was tough]. They ran a
series of intersessions, like all day, and I took two intersessions and the full summer
session and my comprehensive exams that same summer. My husband was gone
on to Kentucky to start his job, and I had the two kids. But I had everything [to do]. I
look back, and I do not know how I did it. I tell my kids now when they come home
on vacations: "I don't know how I did it. I don't know how I cooked for you [and did
all those things all those years]." I have gotten so lazy, I guess, now that I do not
have to do everything for them and be everywhere with them. But I guess you do
what you have to do. So, we moved to Lexington.
Y: Now, what were your responsibilities as a faculty member at Indiana during that
A: I taught a full load and served on a number of committees. I also sponsored the
cheerleaders, although I did not travel with them. I was not really a coach. I was
more of an advisor, so I did not have to attend all their practices like you do high
school cheerleaders. I was their faculty representative. That was pretty much it.
They knew I was in school, and it was my first year [teaching there]. I taught six or
seven classes. I was busy teaching.
Y: Primarily physical activity courses or lecture courses or some combination?
A: Some combination, mostly undergraduate at that time.
Y: So you survived your year at Indiana and ...
A: Later at Lexington. [laughter]
Y: Talk about Lexington.
A: Lexington, hourwise, was easier because I had half-time administration. It was
probably more comprehensive [and busier], as I was busy all day. When you get
into administration it seems like you never get everything done. The number of
courses was fewer, although I did teach quite a lot, but I had a lot of administrative
work to do, which slowed my thesis down. I could have finished my thesis maybe,
oh, six months sooner had I not been involved in administration. It is just time
consuming [with] meetings, etc. I was always interrupted, and when you get
interrupted on something like that [a thesis] it takes forever to get back, geared-in
mentally to what you are doing and that kind of thing.
I enjoyed Lexington and was looking forward [to staying there]. Well, I liked Indiana.
I would have stayed at Indiana. I liked teaching there. I liked the faculty. I liked
what I taught. I would have moved into more professional-type classes and majors
after I had finished my degree, I feel sure, but I liked Kentucky, even though I did
think Kentucky was as well funded as Indiana was. I think we had the best facilities I
ever taught in [at Indiana], even to this day. The place I started had all kinds of
teaching stations and teaching facilities. Everybody had private offices. They just
had facilities for their programs. Kentucky was behind quite a bit. It had crowded
conditions and old gyms and crowded offices and old offices, like many schools.
Indiana, I think, was a step ahead as far as that goes, of meeting facility needs in
the mid-1960s. It was a good school, a beautiful school.
Y: In terms of opportunities for women at both Indiana and Kentucky, what did you
see? Maybe you can make a comparison. What was lacking?
A: Well, back then we had departments of physical education for women and
departments of physical education for men. We do not have those anymore. [They
are not separate.] The opportunities for a woman to teach in women's physical
education were plenty, because they only hired women. They hired a certain
number of women. The jobs I went after were jobs that were not necessarily
competitive with males. And I was young. I was twenty-five when I took the job at
Indiana and twenty-six at Kentucky--almost with my doctorate [completed]. That
was unusual. A man or woman did not have a doctorate back then [at such a young
age]. They did not have them [that early] because they worked before going on in
school. The doctoral range was thirty-five and on for men or women back then, so it
was unusual that a person my age would have credentials like I had. I [think I] was
also very mature [for my age, partly because of my] lifestyle [since I was] twelve, but
[more so] because I was married and had responsibility. Even though a lot of
people may not agree, it gave me a sense of responsibility for a twenty-five or
twenty-six year old that a normally unmarried twenty-five or twenty-six year old
would not have. [I felt] the balance of all that and the responsibility of all that [made
me a strong candidate in my field].
I hate to say things about myself that are kind of embarrassing, but I think it made
me a valuable applicant. I had a lot of years left, a lot of energy, a lot of maturity, a
lot of educational [experience].
Y: And you were running in Kentucky, you said, the intramural and extramural
A: Which was then their whole program. Women's sports were there, but on a very
Y: How long were you at Kentucky?
A: Just one year. [laughter]
Y: One year again?
A: My former husband decided he wanted different experiences, so he got an
opportunity, applied, and got a job with the U.S. Office of Education in Washington.
He wanted to move again. Of course, there are a lot of places there where I could
apply. I was not so limited. So I started applying. I applied at the University of
Maryland. He had already gotten his job, and he went up to confirm [it]. I had an
interview set up [at Maryland]. The job there was broader. I would be teaching
professional curriculum. I would supervise interns. They have their own College of
Physical Education there like they do here [at Florida] but did not at Kentucky. Half
of my load would be responsible to the College of Physical Education and half to the
College of Education. It was very attractive to them [Maryland] that I had a degree
in educational psychology. Usually they [the College of Education] at Maryland
would be someone who was trained in P.E. that could have put in a curriculum. But
the College of Education was very much impressed with my background, with the
fact that I could teach in at least two different of its departments in addition to
I interviewed for that job, and I got that job. I had no trouble at all getting that job at
Maryland, [which was flattering to me]. It was at the rank of assistant professor. I
was very flattered. I did not think I would get it. Of course, I was young, and it was
very much more involved than anything else I had ever done as far as teaching. I
had taught elective [courses]. This was all professional courses in administration of
physical education. Eventually, rather than teaching courses in education I was
assigned to the research division, because they liked my research background. As
one-half load I supervised half of the physical education teachers who were
assigned to Baltimore and DC and all of those areas [in Maryland]--Prince Georges
County, Montgomery County. That helped me get into all the schools, elementary
as well as high school, with certain of my interns, and meet all those teachers and
supervisors in the schools and [to] learn Washington. Once you know where all the
elementary schools and junior highs are in a town, you know the town backwards
and forwards. So I really became very much involved in the DC setting.
While I was there, we [Maryland] taught a number of courses for Walter Reed [Army
Medical Center in Washington, DC]; they wanted me to teach a health education
course at Walter Reed. They gave me rank there, too. They considered me an
assistant professor of the Walter Reed Hospital School of Nursing, because I would
teach a group of nurses how to teach health to patients. I would go over there one
afternoon a week to teach a course at Walter Reed, which was not that far from the
Once again, we lived only about a mile and a half from the university campus. We
got an excellent woman to come to our home to look after my two little boys, who
were still preschoolers. The second year we were there the oldest started
kindergarten, about two blocks from the house. I still went home every day for
lunch, except when unusual circumstances [made it so ] I could not. I took an hour
and a half. Everybody else went somewhere for lunch, so I went home. When I
was supervising interns in Baltimore I did not get back [for lunch]. But I was there,
and I was accessible. When they got sick or something I could be home in ten
There were so many things to see and do in the Washington, DC, area. We went to
the Smithsonian dozens of times. Even when the older one started kindergarten I
accompanied as a parent chaperon [on] all their field trips. I wanted to be a part of
it, so I made the effort and was there for all the field trips to fire stations and
I really liked my work at Maryland. I could have stayed there. I knew that my former
husband's position was temporary, because he had to drive to downtown DC every
day and that he was there just to get the experience of working in the U.S. office, so
I knew we were not going to be there permanently. I enjoyed my work while I was
there. I always have a way of getting really involved wherever I am. He was
beginning to get restless there after two years and started looking, wanting to move
to a professorship somewhere.
Y: In terms of the department at Maryland, was it similar to Indiana's and Kentucky's
women's physical education?
A: No, it had merged. By then we had moved into just one department of health and
physical education. However, they still had separate activity curriculums. There
was a group of women that just had activity classes for women and a group of men
that just had activity courses for men. Then there was a group of doctoral people,
maybe assistant professor rank and higher, who taught the classroom courses. It
was all in one department.
Y: In terms of opportunities for women in sports, what kinds of opportunities were
Y: Intramurals only?
A: Yes. Maybe a little extramurals; once in a while they would have a play day. They
were so poorly funded that they [play days] were losing support. A lot of work was
involved in getting six to ten teams together to play. It was not that challenging
Y: So at the end of a couple of years it was time to think about making another
A: Kern applied at several places: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida. What he had done
[at the U.S. office] was very much involved with grants, and he developed a grant to
do some studies. So wherever he would go this grant would go [also]; he would go
as director of this national education finance grant. Dr. R. L. Johns handled the
administration of it here [at Florida], and he was considered the best. Dr. Johns
wanted Kern and wanted the grant; he knew Kern. Dr. Johns's son, Tom, worked
with Kern, so he had that connection. Tom is still there in the U.S. office. It seems
like a thousand years ago.
Dr. Johns and Kern kind of worked it out that they bring that grant to the University
of Florida. Kern was coming as an associate professor, I think, at that time. So we
came to Florida.
Y: Throughout all of this time you followed your husband in terms of a career path and
found your own career path along with that. But the decisions were primarily based
on his decisions.
A: Right. Always.
Y: So that is what brought you to Florida. You came with a couple of sons and no job.
A: No job and pregnant. [laughter] I was accidentally pregnant every time I got
pregnant. Along about April or May--I think it was in May--I discovered I was
pregnant. He had to come [to Florida] in June. I was committed [through the
summer]. I had to direct a six-hour elementary curriculum workshop that was to be
[a] really different [offering]. All the elementary teachers in the state of Maryland
had to take this workshop, so I had to stay through the summer again. He always
went ahead of me--he did not have to move. [laughter] I stayed through the
summer and taught through the summer. I was pregnant, so I knew it was kind of
useless to try to get a job in Florida. So I did not apply. I was due in January.
In August of 1968 I moved with the two kids. I did not teach that fall. That was the
second real year I had not taught [or worked]. The youngest, Kern, started first
grade, and the next one [King] started kindergarten. I was homeroom mother, and I
went out [to the school] and taught P.E. to their classes as long as I could. Then I
started applying here [in Gainesville] in physical education in November or
December. It was kind of hard to get a job when you are already there.
I did not know how lucky I would be. Klint was born in January, and in late February
the dean of this college, who is no longer with us, retired and deceased, and [Dennis
Keith] Stanley [dean emeritus, College of Physical Education, Health, Recreation]
said he wanted to interview me. I asked him what kind of position it was, and he
said, "We are looking for a chairman for the department of physical education for
women," which was a department at that time. I do now know why there was some
hesitancy, but there was some hesitancy there for a while. As I look back and talk to
some of the faculty that are still here that were part of that, they said, "You had three
kids." [laughter] "You had three boys, one a baby two months old and the others
five and six years old. They wondered if you could do it--teach a half load and
administer the department," and they just wondered if I had time. I had located a
woman to come to my home, and a couple of months before the third one was born
she started coming in and helping take care of the house and kids part time,
because I needed the help. As it ended up, she stayed for thirteen years.
They finally offered me the job along about April so that I would start in August. I
made preparations to start in August. Having already been here, it was an easy
transition. I found out in September I was pregnant again. [Back] then you just do
not have kids [and work]; you did not work when you were pregnant. I did not tell
anybody for a long time. In fact, we came in after Christmas, and a faculty member
said, "We think you are pregnant." They had not known me, so they did not know
how heavy I was. Then the dresses were those no-belted things, so they thought I
was still heavy from my third child. After Christmas break one good friend--and still
my good friend here--said, "They have asked me to come and ask you if you are
pregnant." This was in January. I said, "I am due in March." [laughter] "You are
due in March?!" They said, "Well, Dean Boyd has old, conservative ways, and he
might ask you to quit." I said, "I have no intention of quitting." So I told everybody,
much to everybody's surprise. Men said, "Women as pregnant as you cannot tie
their shoes, and you are out here teaching golf." [laughter]
He cooperated, he being our fourth son [Kane], by coming during spring break. I did
not miss a class before he was born, and I came back the week after he was born.
Of course, you only have to teach a class [or so at first]. It is not like going back to
an all-day job. I would come and do a little office work, teach a class, and go home.
So he was born during spring break.
I kind of opened the door for everybody. Most of the women faculty members had
pregnancies right up to full term, but the secretaries could not. They used to make
them quit at six months. [When] the secretaries became pregnant, [they started]
going to full term by choice rather than quitting, and coming back [later]. I think I
blazed that trail. There is nothing in the record books, but I went to a full-term
pregnancy and came back as soon as I wanted to. I was probably one of the first
females on this campus to do that. Now it is done and nobody thinks anything about
Y: But at that [time it] was ...
A: It was not done at all.
Y: You said that you did not tell anyone about this.
A: Because I thought that they might make arrangements for me not to work [or to quit].
Y: I wonder about that. It is hard to think about that sort of thing in today's times.
A: Secretaries had in their contracts that at a certain time they would quit, like at six
months. It was not in the faculties' [contracts], but they could have decided to put it
Y: But for secretaries at that point in time in their contracts there were statements to
A: Yes. And in public schools [too]. Teachers in public schools had to quit when they
were six months [along], and they could not come back, depending on the system or
county, until the babies were six to nine months old.
Y: What about job security?
A: I was not tenured yet. Tenure was not automatic. I was not tenured until my third
year. The first year was kind of tough. It was a new job with a lot of responsibilities,
a new baby, pregnant, and two kids starting school. But I still just went day to day to
Y: What about other women in the department? Were any of the other women that
were here in the department mothers?
A: I do not think there was another woman in the department [who was] married.
Y: Of women's physical education.
A: At that time.
Y: So it was very different.
A: Yes. Some of the older ones wondered if I could do it. I say that because they are
all my good friends now, and they tell me how they felt: "We thought this," and "We
thought that." Over the years I gained their respect and love, too, for we all love
each other. We are a variety of married and unmarried now, mothers and unmarried
[or single] mothers now. But women just did not have children and work full time
unless they were divorced or had to. I not only worked full time, I had four kids--one
and two and six and seven. What is there to say? I did the job, and they thought I
did a good job and said so. They seemed pleased with me. They came to me not
because they thought I should not be here, but they were worried about my working
while pregnant. They were worried that the [dean] was going to make me stop, to
step down and take a leave. They did not want me to go. That was what was
bothering them: they did not want to lose me, which was reinforcing. I thought,
"They really want me here." I had their support. They were just worried.
Years later--I have to say this because I felt it was so negative of the dean; in a way
it was, but it was the way of the times--when I came up for tenure three years after I
had been here I was denied promotion the first time. I was an associate professor,
and I wanted to be a full professor. He approved me for tenure, but he would not
advance me to full professor. I asked him why, and the only thing he told me--I had
written and was published and had done everything I should have done--was, "Ruth,
I think that you have a good position for a woman of your age." I said, "What do you
mean?" He said, "Well, this is nothing personal, but if I had been dean and you had
applied for the chairmanship of that job, I would not have hired a woman [who had
four kids]." He [actually] said that. At the time that was the attitude. He would
never say that now. They think it now; they just do not say it. But he actually said
that. In other words, "I would not have paid any attention to all this other stuff about
you and how successful you have been and what you have done and so forth. I
would not have hired a woman with four kids because I would not have thought you
could have done it in administration." I thought that kind of summed it up.
Y: This was the dean of the College of Physical Education?
A: Not [the one] that hired me. [This was] the next one. The one that hired me retired
the year I came.
Y: His name was?
A: Dean Stanley. He founded this college. Then Dean [Clifford] Boyd was hired
thereafter. He is a very conservative person and member of this college. He stayed
until six years ago. Then we hired another dean [Patrick Bird].
Y: But the structure was a male dean, and then there were administrative units formed.
A: Men's and women's, which there are not now. That structure remained until 1977.
Then we merged the two, [the] men's and women's departments.
Y: In those earliest years are there any other kinds of memories dealing with male
members of the physical education faculty in terms of their views on women's roles
within the college or the University?
A: Well, the group that was probably more my age was bending a little. Many of their
wives worked. Maybe they did not do [exactly] what I did, and many of them did not
have four kids, but many of them worked out here or as public school teachers, so
they were more open to those kinds of things. And I think I gained a lot of respect
for women, in that I could perform professionally and deal with my personal life as
well. So I had that kind of support. I think they liked me personally, too. Again, you
put me in a position where I am constantly complimenting myself. They were very
open and very friendly, and we got along well.
I think the older men, mainly the former traditional men of physical education, over
such a long time have all become my good friends, and they tell me what they
thought of me at first. I think it bothered them that I was so successful at this job. At
least if I am doing this job I should have trouble somewhere. It is too much to
expect women to do a good job at home, too. It bothered them because they were
so male-oriented. [Traditionally] this male department always had a little conflict--
[they felt] that they were better than the women's department.
But I had a great relationship with my faculty. There were times when we became
angry about things and so forth, but we as a faculty had social things together like at
New Year's and Christmas and the end of the year. We had fun together and
played a little bit together. They all loved my kids. They know all my kids. They
gave me a shower before the fourth one was born, and I carry a little [locker pin].
We had such a hassle to get [these] new locker swimming basket pins, the old pins
that you had your number on the basket. It was such a hassle. We used to have
such a hassle getting anything. So we finally got a whole new set of these
swimming pool pins, and they pulled out number four and gave it to me because it
was my child's pin--number four. I still carry that pin. They are just tiny moments
which meant, We not only accept you but we accept all the things about you--the
fact that you are a mother, the fact that you have kids, and all that. Just little things
like that which say that without saying a word.
They would listen to stories. You know how mothers like to talk about their kids, and
they would listen to stories about my kids. They were such fun, and they always
laughed. The whole neighborhood would play in my backyard, and they would just
do anything. One time they had a golf course. They had dug little holes in the yard
and were playing golf. Another time they were going to have a softball game, so
they dug these big dugouts and put benches down in them. They just could do
anything. The whole neighborhood played in my yard because I liked that. I liked
knowing where my kids were. I remember one faculty member came by to drop
something at the house one Saturday. She drove in, and the whole backyard was
full of kids. She said, "Where are the Alexanders?" and the kids said: "Oh, they are
out of town. They will not be back until tomorrow night." I said, "Yes, they play
there." [laughter] I have had the broken windows and the broken this and that. But
still, I knew where my kids were. Nobody else let them play in their backyard. You
did not dig up other backyards. I said, "Well, when the kids get older we will plant
grass." Later we moved, so we gave the backyard to somebody else.
That is the way it was. We had converted the garage to a playroom, a huge
playroom. There was an old refrigerator out there, and every one of my kids had a
water bottle, with different colored lids. I looked in there one time and there were
about ten water bottles. All the kids in the neighborhood had their water bottles in
there. Well, you just let that happen.
Again, I never worried where my kids were. They were probably home in the
backyard or in the garage playing with the games. Knowing that made work easier.
Of course, again I had the flexibility to run back and forth if need be. If one was sick
I could manage it. I could pick them up from school. I always did. Still I read the
stories every night. I thought that even when they became readers that it was
important as long as they wanted to hear a story to read them a story. They got
their bedtime story until they were almost grown. [laughter]
Y: It is about 1969 when you are starting here. The University of Florida had been
coeducational for a little over twenty years ...
A: Since 1948.
Y: . when you arrived. Can you describe what it was like even at that time for
women faculty and women students?
A: Well, women students were doing the traditional things, I guess, majoring in
education. I think the student body was close to 40 percent women, which I thought
was a tremendous advance. It is about 50 percent now, so 40 percent by then was
pretty good. But the women were more or less centralized in certain areas of study,
primarily teachers, nurses, physical therapy, a handful in journalism, and a few in
business and law. But certainly not to the numbers they are now. The opportunities
for encouragement and advancement were not there. Women had the traditional
activities available for them, [like] sorority life [and] musical opportunities. Musical
opportunities always included both sexes, especially women.
But there were no intercollegiate athletics. There was a little opportunity in
extramural clubs. Again, the same thing. Women's golf and women's tennis had
been able to travel to some semi-national kinds of things. Then our team sports
played the other Florida schools, [including] Florida State, Rollins, South Florida,
and a few of those. But that was the limited activity for women, the way it kind of
was throughout the United States. Women were getting very restless about this.
They had shown a very fine level of skill and enthusiasm for sports and a need to
have the money to compete with different schools in different geographical locations.
There was a real keen interest and desire there for women to do more in athletic
Y: So what transpired to allow greater opportunities, then, in the 1970s?
A: Well, strangely enough, the University of Florida approved officially from its
committee on intercollegiate athletics an athletic program for women in March of
1972 for the coming year. Title IX came after that, about three months after that.
Y: I was going to ask you if Title IX triggered that.
A: No, Title IX was not heard of yet. It was in the making, but it had not made the
scene yet. What had happened here was that most of my women staff worked with
the women's extramural teams. One worked with tennis and one with swimming.
They did not do much. They would swim [against] Florida State, and then Florida
State would come down here and swim. That would be it. Then one of them
worked with golf. Some of the graduate assistants worked with some of the team
sports. So two or three of the women came in and said, "We would like to approach
Ray Graves (who was the athletic director at the time) to see if he would help fund
some of the women students."
We decided to talk to Ray Graves, and Ray Graves said that by the logistics of his
position with the budget approval process, he could not fund anybody for whom the
board [did not approve the funding]. They could not just give money away. There
was not enough to go around. I do now know whether he meant for us then to go
fight the battle or that it meant that we would not do anything else and that would be
the end of it. We said, "Well, let us talk to whoever it is that heads the committee."
Of course, [University of Florida] President Stephen C. O'Connell was head of the
committee. I wrote a letter to O'Connell, and my cohorts helped with what they
wanted to say, about our desire to start an intercollegiate program for women in
sports. We [informed him that we] wanted some funding and some support, and we
would like to talk to the people who are involved with approving that.
Y: When you are talking about colleagues, these are in the women's department. No
colleagues from the men's department were supporting you.
A: We were still the women's department. So we met with Ray Graves and Mandy
Glicksberg, who was the faculty representative and chairman of the committee on
intercollegiate athletics and a professor of the law school; Bill Elmore, who was the
vice-president for administrative affairs and also the chairman of the board for the
athletic association; and President Stephen C. O'Connell. We went in and explained
what we wanted. We told them how we operated things and the kinds of
competition we wanted. The women were [already] there and the teams were
formed, and we just thought it was time. Stephen C. O'Connell said, "We will do it.
We will take a stand, and we will do it." He presented it to the board, and they
passed it unanimously. They sent me a letter that I was to prepare a budget. I
prepared a budget, and we had five sports.
We did not take team sports [in] with us at this time because team sports had some
financial help from intramurals. They were allowed to use the van, and were given
equipment and uniforms. This was kind of all we wanted for the other teams,
anyway. So we went with tennis, golf, swimming, track and field, and gymnastics.
Those were the first five official sports programs [for women] at the University of
I requested a budget of $16,000, and it was approved. We thought we were the
wealthiest people in town! It was a tremendous amount of money. [The] next year
we had $36,000.
Y: What about the men's sports at this time? What kind of budgets did they have?
A: I would say the total men's athletics budget at this time was somewhere between $4
and $5 million. But that is everything. That is like $24 million right now. That is
figuring in all the facility maintenance and security. But this gave us the money for
equipment, and it gave us the money for travel at the level that we were ready to
travel to the places where we needed to go.
Within a two-year frame, intramurals had a change of philosophy and rescinded its
funding of team sports. They no longer provided equipment, and they no longer
provided transportation. [That left] our basketball, volleyball, and softball teams
were kind of [out] in a lurch, so we added those as part of the women's program in
the third year of the program, 1974.
Our budget by that time had grown to about $65,000. We had about eight sports
going. We did well. We had eight sports, and I would say six of them wound up
every year in the top ten [in the nation]. We were not only excelling skillwise but
budgetwise [and in] administrative structure, and everything was in excess of
anybody else in the nation. We just had more money, even though it was such a
small bit of money to deal with.
In the meantime, of course, Title IX came in in 1972, and the guidelines were signed
in 1975. Schools were given until 1978 to be in compliance. So we were working
ahead. We were not anywhere near where we should have been, but we were
ahead of most of the other schools in Florida and all the schools in the Southeast.
We were producing teams that performed nationally in this category.
So in 1978 or 1979, when we were supposed to be in compliance, and we had about
$550,000. That sounds like a lot, but men's budgets were up to $8 million. We still
were barely providing the kinds of opportunities for women that should be provided.
Then the state of Florida at the Board of Regents level decided that they had to do
something for the nine state universities in Florida in order to help them. [The
University of] Florida had the best [bueget for women's athletics], and it still does.
Florida State was next. I think Florida State had about $350,000. Then [the dollar
amounts went] all the way down for the other seven universities. So they called
together the people who were in charge of women's athletics at the different
universities and asked them to bring their men's budgets. We would determine, in
some formula process, what comparability was. Nobody knew. Was it dollar for
dollar, was it the opportunity, was it sport by sport? How was it? So we worked
together and developed a formula--one for the football schools and one for the non-
football schools--which would come up with a figure of what the actual money spent
on each male athlete amounted to. Was it $2,000? What was the average dollar
amount spent on the male athletes?
We were able to do that in every category: equipment, scholarship, medical care,
coaching. There were over 100 line items in the budget, and we were able to come
up with what they spent on the average for each male. We multiplied the number of
women athletes we had--at that time we had 123--[times these figures]. See, the
men had 335, so they had three times as many, so the budget needs were
considerably more. They also had football. No other men's sport--let alone
women's sport--needs as much money as football. We did not dismiss football
totally, but we did not count it totally, either. We did an average share for football
and an average share of all the men's other sports. Then we multiplied what we
spent on the average male athlete per item by 123. If the women's program had its
comparable portion, they would have this much money.
They added it up by school. [The University of] Florida's came to $1.3 million. That
also included some one-time, non-recurring costs, such as facilities and things that
once you get them set up you would need that money coming in. Well, we needed
$1.3 million. We had $550,000, so we subtracted $550,000 from $1.3 million to say,
"This is how much more we need to be in compliance." Each of the schools came
up with its figure, and they [the Board of Regents] added all nine figures and said [to
the legislature], "This is how much money we need in the state of Florida to make all
our women's athletic programs comparable to the men's programs."
Well, it was a full intent of the legislature to fund this. But there is a law in Florida
that says no tax money can be used for intercollegiate athletics. So in order to
make it legal to give us the money, they wrote a bill called Florida Women's
Intercollegiate Athletics Equity Act, and that bill, in essence, says, "In an effort to be
in compliance, to give women the opportunity that they are supposed to have by the
guidelines set forth in the Education Ammendment Act and Title IX, we are going to
approve funding women's athletics to this limit." And they did.
So in the year 1980/81 women's athletics at Florida and the other state institutions
had comparability money. Governor [Bob] Graham signed it, and Sports Illustrated
came down and took a picture of him, because no other state had a comprehensive
plan. I think Minnesota funded the University of Minnesota $1 million for women's
athletics. Some other states have done some things, but no other state did the
whole system and did everything it needed to do in an effort to make women's
Y: Let us back up. In 1972 you were appointed as the first [director of women's
A: Yes. I kind of said I would coordinate it. I really did not want athletic director titles. I
was already department chairman. We had an agreement where this college would
supply coaches and administration. I would administer it, and my teachers would be
assigned [part of] a load for teaching. We would run it personnelwise that way. We
ran it that way for a number of years. In fact, I coordinated it until 1980/81, because
we had enough money then to hire someone full time in addition to administration
and teaching. I did it one year to have the complete budget. I wanted the
experience, and we also needed a year of funding for that.
Y: You were sort of an unofficial or untitled director of women's athletics for about ten
A: Exactly. Well, nine years.
Y: Then someone else was actually hired with the title in the 1980s.
A: [That was in ] 1981/82.
Y: But you really set up the program, saw that everything was in place, and made sure
that all the funding and everything else was running.
Y: You said that Florida was ahead of the nation in terms of compliance and money
and that sort of thing early in the mid 1970s. What about other schools in the
Southeastern Conference [SEC]?
A: We were ahead.
Y: You were ahead of all of those.
A: Yes. We started a little unofficial women's athlete association, and we had more
fun. Of course, Ann Marie Lawler, who is our women's athletics director now, was at
Alabama then. We have been good friends for years. She was at Alabama, and I
was at Florida. We decided that our schools were growing and were big universities
with stronger and better-financed programs than the ones that we had been
competing against, like Florida International and Florida A & M. Our budgets were
growing so much, but we did not have a lot of scholarships. There really was not a
lot of competition, so we wanted to encourage competition within the SEC schools.
We thought we would get together and set up SEC championships. What we did
was fly into the old Atlanta airport and meet all day. Then we flew home that night.
We planned SEC competitions. Finally we were at the stage that we would have the
SEC approve or sanction a tournament. This was before the NCAA [National
Collegiate Athletics Association] started administering women's athletics. Well, the
SEC said, "We really do not do women's athletics." We said, "We are not asking
you to fund it. We are not asking you to supply anything but the name. We just
want to be part of the SEC."
They would not approve us using its name. They said, "You may say Women's
Basketball Championship among SEC Institutions [and] Women's Tennis
Championship among SEC Institutions." We could not call it the SEC. We laugh
about that and tease about that now. It is [now] all one and the same. Just like it
was always that way.
Y: When did that come about?
A: That was 1978.
Y: That you could actually be part of the SEC. But until that time ...
A: Unofficially; just the use of that name. We were ready to go with the first
tournaments. They were developing, but they were still very envious of our budget,
even before that. With $550,000, we had twice as much as [anyone else had].
Y: You were very positive in your comments particularly about Indiana and Maryland
earlier. What about women's athletics there? Was this program still ahead of
A: Yes, I would say so. I think we were right up there with Texas and Stanford as far
as funding and administration were concerned.
Y: In terms of coaching, you said that the coaches for the sports were drawn from your
regular faculty. You had no opportunity, at least initially, to go out and recruit or
advertise for a coach?
A: I had to wait for permission. In the early 1970s it was easier to follow because
many of the women faculty members, wherever they were, probably coached some
kind of intramural or extramural activity. For example, Paula [Welch] coached
basketball at Eastern Kentucky University as part of her professorship there, so
coming here to be a professor and coach basketball was fine with her. The tennis
coach [Nancy Sue Whiddon] probably coached tennis where she came from. We
ran out [of coaches], though, and many times [for] the team sports we would have to
use graduate assistants, who would teach for a year or two; then they would be
gone, and we would have to get somebody else. That hurt.
Then, as we headed out of the 1970s, our college got less interested in supplying
coaches in combined roles of teachers and coaches. A lot of men were that way
[too, [including] the men's tennis coach [M. B. Chafin] and the men's swimming
coach and baseball coach. Our college, under Dean Boyd, wanted to get
completely away from combined coaches/teachers, so that meant that we had to
start looking for full-time coaches. Current [faculty] like Dr. [Paula] Welch ended up
not coaching basketball. She did not want to coach basketball if she were not a
professor. She did not want to give that up because of basketball. I felt that was
[damaging in a way]. Maybe it was a good move, but I think it hurt women's sports
at that time because we were just beginning in bits and pieces to put it together. We
were not ready for full-time positions for coaches, and we did not want to go to full-
time positions. So I felt that particular move hurt our program [for a while].
Y: When did that actually occur?
A: Well, it started about 1977. I say 1977 because that was when they merged the
men's and women's departments, and in that merger they started a lot of new rules
for faculty in this department. If you are in this department and you want to coach,
you have to be in the activities department, not the professional department. Dr.
Welch had a doctorate and taught in the professional [department], so if she wanted
to coach basketball she would have to stay in the department of activity. I kind of
thought [the old way] blended the two departments.
They were going to select either the male chairman or myself as female chairman
[of the combined department]. A committee was named, and they screened us and
so forth, and I was very flattered they offered it to me. They named me the chair of
the combined department. That was great. But the dean, in his new philosophy to
do away with the evolving athletic programs, said that he would allow me the
position if I would give up my administration of women's athletics. I told him that I
had intended to do that as soon as we could get it funded to the level we could hire
someone. But that was 1977, and it was just like dropping that at a time when it was
still growing. It was a bad time to give that up. I felt like probably its "mother," and I
was not ready to give it up, so I told him I would not do that. I did not think he
should have asked me to do that. I felt that if I had done a poor job at the teaching
or in my administration he could have asked me to have done that, but they wanted
me. They had selected me over the other person who had not shared his job with
the other kind of thing. They wanted me over him, so I think I had done a quality
The dean and I did not come to a philosophical agreement, and I was not that happy
being an administrator only. I loved administration, and I miss administration, but I
thought it over and told him, "I believe that women's athletics needs me a little while
longer." 'So I became a full-time faculty member and taught a full load. This was
from 1977 to 1980.
Y: At this time there was a split, though, in the whole athletic philosophy, that coaches
were coaches and faculty were faculty, and a coach would not necessarily be
appointed to faculty status.
A: Right, so he did not want me to be an administrator.
Y: And this was the case in men's sports?
A: Yes. He did not make them do it, but he put the situation in [such a way] that was
hard not to eventually move toward that. We had a few men who had just a few
years until they retired, so they had a situation where they just kind of finished out
their time. But anybody new, like Dr. Whiddon, who was my tennis coach, and Dr.
Welch, who was the basketball coach--people that were new and younger than I--
either had to really step down substantially to comply with that. [They had] to
choose activity or coaching. They did not want to stay in coaching all their lives
anyway. After so many years you want to step out of it. But they had to make that
decision early--maybe earlier than they wanted to.
Y: Now, in the 1970s I think is when the coaching salaries, particularly for men's
football and basketball, began to escalate incredibly. Can you make some
observations about salary differentials between men and women coaches in various
A: Our [women's] salaries were the slowest and the last to grow. I do not know what
they are now in the 1980s [and 1990s], because I do not have access to that. I
would say that they are close to men's, especially our [UF] women, because our
women are so successful and are national championship winners, with the two
exceptions of men's basketball and football. I would say the other men's coaching
salaries and women's salaries are very close, based on years of experience, etc.
Back then it was very difficult, because they had been giving them something like a
fourth or third teaching load and then a supplement of $1,000 or something like that.
All of a sudden we had to turn in full-time positions, and we started [with the job
description that] some of them would combine coaching a sport with being an
academic counselor. Another would coach a sport and be an assistant
administrator. [We resorted to] the combinations of jobs because the money was
not there to put them on full, substantial salaries. I think by the decade of the 1980s
that is what they did, because all the money was used for travel, scholarships,
equipment, and that sort of thing, so I think the new kinds of growth took place in
salary increases. It had to generate that kind of salary structure or we would lose
our coaches to other schools.
Y: Are there any particular highlights or memories from the years that you have been
serving as the athletic director?
A: Well, generally I think the success of this program has been phenomenal. We have
a consistent program that produces so many outstanding athletes. Then, to top that,
they are all good students. The grade point averages are very close to 3.0. We had
a gymnastics coach [Ernestine Weaver] who laughs and says that of all the students
she had coached there are only two that have not graduated: one transferred to
Stanford, and one of them got a movie contract. [laughter] So we did not have any
dropouts because of flunking out among women athletes. We have never had a
drug problem with any of our women. The great thing about it is we have had the
greatness and fineness of athletics without all of the sociological barriers that have
plagued a lot of the men's programs.
It gives me a great deal of pride to know that I was instrumental in opening a big
door of opportunities for women that just was not there. We did not just improve
opportunities for women. They just were not there. There was not one single
woman on athletic scholarship in 1971, and there are over 10,000 in our country
now on athletic scholarships. So I think that is indicative of the degree of success
for the image of women. Not only did it just happen with athletics, but I think it just
spread. I think it is [now] an acceptable thing for women in our society because of
the success of women athletes. They belong to all kinds of tennis, golf, and fitness
and workout [organizations], and do physical things, things which are part of a new
image of women. A muscular woman is very well accepted now. She was not well
accepted [years ago]. You did not want muscles when I was growing up. If you had
them you did not show them. It has spread throughout our society that women are
involved in fitness and sports. That area was kind of my other big emphasis: fitness
in society. Athletics did much for women.
Y: Are there any individuals that stand out in your mind, athletes or colleagues here,
during your tenure at the University of Florida?
A: Well, I always think about [UF President] Stephen C. O'Connell. It was just very
questionable for us to make such a proposal [for women's athletics]. We never had
it. The possibility of being turned down was so possible. We never had it; why
should they do it now? You walk over there [to Tigert Hall], and you are [a little]
nervous and scared, but you want it. You kind of keep your fingers crossed. He just
listened and said, "We will have it"--kind of like it was God talking. "We will have
this." So that total acceptance from him stands out, and I will always remember it.
He said we would have it, and I think the dean wanted to cooperate with us [and] the
mothers wanted to cooperate with us. Older men voted that we would have it. I
think that gave me the confidence to keep going back every year to increase that
budget, arguing with them and fighting [for increases] and fussing with them, saying:
"We have to have it. How can we do it without [the necessary funds]? because he
said, 'We will have it.' If we will have it here, I am sure he would want to have a
good one." That gave me the confidence to take it annually as a given.
Mr. [William] Elmore, academic vice-president long before I came--he died four or
five years ago--was easy to work with. We got along well. A lot of people felt he
was grumpy and disgruntled a lot, but I thought he was fair. He dealt with me fairly.
He did not always say yes, but he was fair. When he did not say yes it did not have
anything to do with sex. It was not because I was a women--it was because he
could not do it. So I felt he was good.
Ray Graves and I got along well. I think Ray was very good-hearted. If he had the
money he would [distribute it fairly]. In the 1960s we had so much money in
athletics. In the 1970s it was hard to come by; we did not have any money. We had
a $4 million deficit in athletics, so it was hard times. I think he would have done
more or would have helped a little more if [he could have]. The potential was there,
so it was easy to get along.
Of course, my women, the athletes and the women who coached, continued through
all sorts of things that they should not have had to in the growing years, but they
hung on. They did the training and laundered the uniforms after the game so they
would have them for the next day's game. They did everything that they needed to
do to make a program successful. All of those women coaches and women athletes
have continued to share [in the responsibilities]. They were students and athletes
both, but they never let it get reversed. It more or less reinforced me.
Y: What do you think were the biggest obstacles during that early period in the early
A: Well, our school's [biggest obstacle] was the lack of money. It was recession times.
It is hard to get money for women's athletics when there is money, but there was
not that much money. I think that was a problem. I also had a problem--I found it
was a problem; I do not know if other women found it was a problem--with a group
of men who were saying I was doing too much. Then I had my real liberal women's
group that was saying I was not doing enough. So I was somewhere in between
trying to be reasonable, trying to develop it at a pace that I thought that it was ready
for. Maybe I was not going far enough fast enough. Then I would have some man
who felt there should not be women's athletics and would not help me or anything.
So I had two factions, and I was trying to find a ground where I could get along with
both and not let them influence me; I tried to stay on the course of direction. It was
hard sometimes. Sometimes I got more criticism than praise. That hurt me,
because I did not ask to do this. I was not hired here to develop women's athletics.
I was hired here to be part of the department and teach. It sure was a lot simpler
than anything I was doing in athletics. I got no [financial] supplement. I think the
last two years that I did women's athletics I got a supplement. I think when I quit
doing administration in 1977 I was then paid a supplement.
But really, I did it as just something I wanted to see develop. I was not hired to do it
nor paid to do it nor expected to do it. Sometimes I thought I got a lot of"grief" I did
not deserve, but I guess a lot of people feel that way.
Y: So you served as the official or unofficial director of women's athletics until about
1981, and you felt at that time that the program was stabilized and it was time to hire
someone else as a full-time athletic director. Tell me a little bit about some of your
activities since that time.
A: During that time I had also been very much involved in fitness activities. When my
fourth son was four months old I knew that I had to do something to maintain fitness,
and I did not have much time, with a full-time job, so I started jogging. That was
before anybody jogged. The only people who jogged were on the track team, let
alone any women. So I started jogging and very soon worked up to my five-mile-a-
day status. I got so much visibility out of that, as the newspapers had articles and
stories and pictures about my jogging. I said, "I just do it for fitness." If it were a
man you would not even think about it. There are so many men who jog. I said, "I
do it for fitness," and it kind of called a lot of attention to the fact that I was interested
in being fit, in maintaining fitness. I jogged every day during my lunch hour. People
see me [now] and ask, "Are you still into jogging?"
Well, in 1974 I was appointed to the President's Council for Physical Fitness by
President [Richard M.] Nixon and was reappointed by [President Gerald] Ford. I got
very much involved in national fitness efforts of all kinds--youth, adults, etc. From
that standpoint, I guess it is my English background [that I was able to] write fairly
well. I started writing about athletics and all about fitness. Sometimes I wrote
regularly for some journals and regular monthly stories. I wrote professional articles
and got very much involved in all the professional activities. You end up being
elected to offices when people read articles you have published. I have written
several books on fitness and administration--those are my two areas of research
and scholarly activities: anything having to do with administrative and athletic
situations and conditioning and fitness and those areas. So I have written quite a bit
and have received quite a number--for my age, I guess--of awards in the area of
fitness and acknowledgement as a fitness leader nationally. I am a member of a
couple of halls of fame and so forth.
Y: Of the many awards that you have received, what one is the most meaningful to
A: Well, of course, my governor's commission to the Governor's Council is very
important, and my President's Council. They are commissions, but they are also
kind of awards because the governor of your state continues to recognize you, and
the president of the United States recognizes you. They have to be top-quality. In
1983 I was one of the ten Healthy American Fitness Leaders. They select people
from all professions: medicine, government, economics, politics, congressional
people, teachers, education. All different areas are brought into this. There are ten
each year. Last year we celebrated ten years of it, so there have been 100 people.
We formed an organization which we call the National Fitness Leaders. So that
particular honor is really a great award for me. Allstate Insurance sponsors it. The
United States Jaycees does the selection. They even [helped] set up the group of
100. A lot of them are celebrities. That is the group I was enjoy most. In fact, they
called me last week and asked me if I would become the president [next year].
Being selected [to be one of] that group of people, such a high caliber of person, is
important [to me]. That is probably my favorite. It is [an] extremely important
Then I was selected in 1987 to the Sports Hall of Fame for the National Association
of Physical Education and Recreation, [along] there with Dick Enberg and Arthur
Ashe. The three of us were inducted that year. They bring in a non-celebrity that
represents the academics of it, the leadership of it, and then they go also to the
celebrity type through their images. So that has to be one of my top awards, as
The year before that the fitness leaders named five Americans who had done the
most for women in sports and fitness who were not necessarily women. There were
two men and three women, and I was one of those five. I went to California. The
California Raisin Board sponsors that. So there were five. Jesse Bell, who owns
Bonnie Bell makeup (he has been in all those road races for Bonnie Bell), was one
of them. Then here in 1990 at the University of Florida I was inducted into the UF
Sports Hall of Fame for what I had done with women's athletics. That is pretty
Y: Are you the first woman to be inducted?
A: No. There were two others. [One was] Alice Tyms, whom I nominated when I was
an administrator. She had played tennis here in the 1950s and had played on the
men's team. She was the [women's] tennis coach at Yale. I thought if she were
good enough to play on the men's team in the 1950s, and she coached at such a
prestigious institution as Yale, she needed to be in it. Then we had gotten Donna
Horton White in, a golfer who was a U.S. amateur [champion]. I was the third one.
Y: Your new book has just been published.
A: The new book came out in September.
Y: Lady Gators ... [Simply the Best, coauthored by Paula D. Welch].
A: Which chronicles the whole thing--I could have read it to you [laughter]--from 1972
and meeting with O'Connell to last June. Season to season, sport to sport. All of
our all-Americans are listed--statistics as well as the story of each sport, and the
administration story, the SEC story, the NCAA story. We even have an Olympic
chapter, as we have had twenty-four women athletes who are Olympic medalists.
Y: All since you have been here.
Y: The book itself is a very important historical document.
A: It is; it is one of a kind. I do not know if there is another one [anywhere else]. Now,
there are books written on football at Yale from the 1880s to the 1990s, and there
are certain persons' tenures as football [coach], but I know of no comprehensive
athletic program that has been put together [in book form] in this way.
Y: You have seen all of this unfold that is in the book.
A: Oh, yes.
Y: Are there any particular things that are not in the book in terms of the process of
writing it or other things, that you would like to share?
A: Well, it took us three and a half years to write it, mainly because the 1970s just were
not well covered; they just did not write about women's athletics [in the newspapers],
and when they did they said, "So-and-so lost in softball." They would not tell who
got the hits nor who pitched nor anything. The 1970s were very difficult to research.
There are pages in there that have certain games that we know they had because
we have a schedule, but we did not have an outcome. In the foreword, I say: "If any
of you have any results of anything we left out, send it to us, because we might do a
new edition." But the 1980s were much better, and it was far easier to get the
material to write about the 1980s. That is a good indication, that it [women's
athletics] is more visible and more accessible. People are more knowledgeable
about it. We knew we had twenty-four women Olympians, three more women to
swim this year, and maybe a gymnast from Canada and a couple of track [athletes
who will be Olympians]. We have a handful of women enter the Olympics every four
years. Those are important people.
The support of my children [has been invaluable]. They think it was great when I got
into the whole thing. At the Florida [Hall of Fame] three attended, and I told them
that much of the time I probably spent doing athletics was their time. They never
complained. They loved it. Even now they call me frequently. One son who went to
Cornell and is now in law school at Minnesota calls, and [so does] my son [who]
graduated from Yale in December. He is waiting to hear from graduate schools. My
son at Trinity is a senior. My son who went to St. Lawrence works at the University
of North Carolina at Greensboro. The two older ones also did master's, one at
Oxford and one at Cambridge. So they have done so well. They have all been
athletic. Three of them played football for schools [and one played basketball].
Then they have become such great citizens and great students and great
individuals, which makes me feel that maybe I did not neglect them too much.
They have always been so supportive. When I gave up women's athletics I thought
they were the most disappointed. They did not want me [to give it up]. They asked
if I knew what I was doing, and I said, "It is a full-time job [now]." They said: "You
are supposed to do that. You are supposed to administer the Lady Gators." They
just could not understand. To have that kind of support from your kids in a day
when we were trying to balance it all and so forth made it so much easier. They
respected and appreciated what I did. So I think the support of my children and the
fact that they were there has been [priceless to me]. In the troubled times I could
keep everything in proper perspective--what was important in life, what was really
there. Home got me away from the troubles in the office. Then I would return [to
the office] with a new, more positive outlook every time I came back. I have to
acknowledge them for what they did.
Y: In addition to all the work you have done for women's athletics and health and
fitness, you are also now teaching in some other areas as well, I understand, [such
as] administration and sports law. Could you comment on that?
A: Yes. For along time all we had [our] students take was just a general course in
athletic administration, but now that athletics has become such a big profession, it is
a business. I think they rank sports as the twenty-third business in our economy. It
is an over-$60 billion business. In order to become an administrator in sports,
whether professional or amateur or institutional, takes a lot of training now in
different areas. We have had to create a curriculum of courses. I created our sport
law class [Legal Issues in Exercise and Sport Sciences] and our sport finance and
marketing class, and I teach both of those. They are kind of my specialty now. I am
a sports management specialist, and I do my research and writing in the area of
legal and finance of sport administration. That crosses all barriers--professional
sports, college institutions and public schools, wellness, fitness associations, etc.
Y: You have certainly see many changes in sports and athletics and women's roles in
all of these things during the course of your lifetime. Before we conclude, are there
any other things you would like to share?
A: No. I have enjoyed my twenty-three years here. I feel like Florida is my home.
People ask, "Where is home?" and I say, "Virginia," where my father lived. My
brother still lives in Virginia, although in another location in Virginia. I see my roots
as being in Virginia, but I really do not see it as home anymore. So I guess home is
here, because home is here for my four sons; they see this as home. The University
of Florida has been a good part of my life.
Y: You are certainly a very amazing woman with some tremendous accomplishments.
A: Well, thank you. I have a lot of good people to work with and good students and, as
I said, good family. When you have those things going for you, the rest of it kind of
falls in place.
Y: Thank you very much for sharing all of this and for taking your time to do this.
A: I enjoyed doing it. I hope that it turns out to be a contribution to what you are doing
Y: Thank you very much.