Christine Grant, pioneer for gender equity in sports and former UI women’s athletic director, dies at 85

Christine Grant, regarded as a pioneer and advocate for women in college athletics, died on Friday at the age of 85.


Nick Rohlman

Christine Grant poses for a portrait in her home on Friday, September 14, 2018. Grant, now retired was the first woman to be Athletic Director at the University of Iowa and was involved in the formation of the national Title IX policy.

Rachel Schilke, Senior Print Editor

Christine Grant, the trailblazing former University of Iowa women’s athletics director, died on Friday at the age of 85.

Grant, a leading voice in the fight for gender equality in sports, was a founding member of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and a chair member of the NACWAA’s Committee on Gender Equity.

According to a press release from Hawkeye Athletics, Grant played and coached field hockey in both her native country of Scotland and Canada before coming to the University of Iowa to continue her education. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physical education at the UI in 1969 and 1970, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. in sports administration from the UI in 1974.

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In 1973, Grant became Iowa’s first director of women’s intercollegiate athletics and held that position until retiring on Aug. 31, 2000. Iowa’s men’s and women’s athletic departments merged into one after she stepped down, the release said.

Several UI coaches and administrators said Grant paved the way for women in athletics and was instrumental in bringing about full implementation of Title IX, the federal legislation passed in 1972 that required equal opportunities for men and women in the fields of athletics and academics. She served as a consultant for the Civil Rights Title IX Task Force.

Grant’s commitment to gender equity in athletics brought several championships and broken records home to the UI. Under her, 12 Hawkeye programs won a combined 27 Big Ten Championships, and the women’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1993. On March 7 of that year, Iowa drew a national record crowd of 22,157 for a women’s basketball contest against Ohio State.

“I owe Dr. Grant so much,” Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said per the release. “She hired me to coach at this university that I love so dearly. More importantly, she gave the opportunity to thousands upon thousands of girls to enjoy and benefit from participating in athletics. Without Dr. Grant’s commitment and efforts to gender equality, girls and women would not be able to experience the benefit of sport the way we know it today.”

Over the years, Grant received multiple awards at the state and national levels. Some of the most notable are the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport “Pathfinder Award” from the state of Iowa in 1993 and 1998; the National Association of Girls and Women in Sport Honor Award in 1996; the University of Iowa Jean Jew Women’s Rights Award in 1998, and the Gerald R. Ford Award in 2007.

In 1991, the UI’s Field Hockey field was renamed the Dr. Christine H.B. Grant Field in 1991, and was re-dedicated in 2006. In 2019, Christine Grant Elementary School, named in her honor, opened in North Liberty.

“What an amazing example. It is because of Dr. Christine Grant and other women like her, that I have the opportunities I have today,” said Barbara Burke, senior women’s administrator and deputy director of athletics. “I can state all the obvious, leader, mentor, pioneer, but more importantly, a life well lived. She impacted so many individuals, the legacy she established will live on. Thank you, Dr. Grant for setting the example and simply being you.”