Pioneer in Women’s Sports Passes Away in Pullman

Pioneering sports administrator Joanne Washburn, who spent 39 years at Washington State and was involved in a landmark lawsuit to bring equality to women’s sports, died at the age of 83 this past Tuesday in Pullman.

Washburn served as women’s athletic director at Washington State from 1965-82. During her time in that role, the women’s athletic program grew to eight varsity sports: volleyball, basketball, field hockey, skiing, tennis, track & field, gymnastics and swimming. Plus, the annual budget grew from $2,000 to more than $1 million. Washburn, along with 12 other coaches and 39 student athletes, filed a lawsuit in 1979 against WSU for failing to comply with Title IX, the 1972 federal law mandating gender equity for educational institutions receiving federal financial support. The lawsuit became a landmark women’s rights case, setting a precedent for all public four-year colleges and universities in the state.

After her time as an administrator, she became a full-time P.E. teacher and eventually retired in 2004. (AP)

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