Iowa women’s basketball head coaching position endowed by P. Sue Beckwith

The $7 million endowment will support the women’s basketball head coaching position and continue to grow the P. Sue Beckwith Black and Golden Opportunities Fund.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder calls a formation during a women’s basketball match between Iowa and Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers, 91-85, in double overtime.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

In a first for the Big Ten conference, former Iowa women’s basketball letterwinner P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., made a total gift of $7 million to endow the Iowa women’s basketball head coaching position and continue to grow the P. Sue Beckwith Black and Golden Opportunities Fund, which provides support to all Iowa women’s sports programs.

Per a release from the Iowa Athletics Department, the endowment is one of the most significant contributions in Iowa women’s sports history. In recognition of the gift, head coach Lisa Bluder and her successors will hold the official title of P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Head Women’s Basketball Coach. 

“I’ve always been proud that the University of Iowa has had so many female student-athletes that have gone on to make incredible impacts in the world,” Bluder said in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. “But to be a part of this moment with Dr. Beckwith, is truly special. I first got to know Sue as an alum, as a supporter of our program, and through that connection she thankfully became a longtime friend.”

Beckwith has now given almost $9 million to Iowa women’s athletics.

“Iowa has a tremendous legacy of coaches, and today, Lisa Bluder and her staff continue to exemplify our rich tradition of women’s basketball,” Beckwith said in a release. “My experiences are one of the reasons I feel so strongly about athletics — the lessons it teaches us. Iowa was such a formative time for me — learning teamwork and time management, overcoming adversity, and gaining self-confidence and self-control. Coach Bluder recruits very high character kids who work tremendously hard. They perform well on the court, get good grades, and do good things off the court. Coach Bluder provides an environment that breeds success.

“Athletics is the vehicle — the arena — for us to learn life lessons. A successful program is going to help that cause, but what is really important to me is the environment provided for student-athletes to come in, grow, and become tremendous citizens. It was important for me that a portion of my giving supports all programs. Although basketball is the most visible, student-athletes in all sports have the same passion, work equally hard, make similar sacrifice, display awesome talent, and reap the same benefits through their athletic endeavors.”

While completing her undergraduate degree at Iowa, Beckwith played on the 1976-80 women’s basketball team under head coaches Lark Birdsong from ‘76-’79 and Judy McMullen in Beckwith’s final season. She ended her career with 904 total points.

Beckwith attended medical school at Iowa and completed her doctor of medicine degree in 1984. She ran a colorectal practice in Des Moines with the Iowa Clinic Department of Surgery and retired in 2018. Now, Beckwith serves as the chair of the Fareway board of directors.

In 2009, Beckwith donated the lead pledge of $1 million to build the $7.2 million boathouse for the Iowa women’s rowing team. In honor of her pledge, the university officially named the new building the P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse. 

Beckwith has also endowed three student-athlete scholarships at the university — the Christine H.B. Grant Scholarship Fund, the P. Sue Beckwith M.D. Rowing Scholarship Fund, and the P. Sue Beckwith M.D. Women’s Basketball Scholarship Fund.

Three positions within the athletic department are now endowed. In 2017, Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie endowed the athletic director position. In 2018, Kirk and Diane Mellecker endowed the head men’s tennis coaching position. The men’s tennis program is slated to be cut at the end of the 2020-21 season.

“It’s fitting that Lisa Bluder be the first one to carry this title,” Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta said in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. “She’s the all-time winningest coach in Hawkeye history, she’s won Big Ten championships, she’s brought us to the NCAA many times, she’s been head coach of the year, she carries and proudly follows through with our value statement ‘Win, graduate, and do it right.’”

Barta said there are more endowments to come for Iowa athletics.

“Endowments are a really important part across our entire campus of securing a strong future,” Barta said. “… I’m excited to announce that we’re in conversations with another couple that will hopefully be announcing here soon to endow another coaching position.”

He did not elaborate on which couple or what coaching position will be endowed.

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