Dr. Christine Grant, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, and a national pioneer and voice in the fight for gender equity in collegiate athletics, passed away on December 31, 2021 at 85 years of age. Under her leadership from 1973-2000, the University of Iowa women – in 12 different sports – brought home 12 NCAA championships and 27 Big Ten titles!
Christine Grant was born on May 27, 1936, in Bo’ness, Falkirk, Scotland, the daughter of Donald and Jean (Orr) Grant. From an early age, Christine enjoyed sports – blooming at the age of 11 when she took up netball – a game akin to basketball. Continuing with field hockey in high school and college at Dunfermline College of Physical Education in Scotland, Grant graduated in 1961, and then traveled to Canada. There, Christine found that Canadians were lacking an organized association for field hockey, so with the help of other enthusiasts, Christine helped develop the first national women’s field hockey team and the Canadian Field Hockey Association.
In 1968, Christine came to Iowa City and over the next six years, earned a Bachelor’s (1969), Master’s (1970) and Doctorate degree (1974) in physical education and athletics administration from the University of Iowa. Being from Scotland, her intention was to get a degree and go back to either Scotland or Canada and pursue a career in sports. “I never, ever dreamed I’d settle down in Iowa City, because I had every intention of going back to Canada — which I love,” Grant said in a 2013 interview with The Des Moines Register, her thick Scottish accent still present. “But, things happen!”
One of those “things” came about in 1972. After much public debate, with Grant herself testifying several times before Congress, the Federal Title IX Legislation was finally passed. The new law required gender equity in all college sports, and as you might imagine, there were many who opposed it – even the NCAA!
Another one of those “things” occurred in 1973, as U of I President Willard ‘Sandy’ Boyd, in response to the Title IX law, became pro-active in making Iowa one of the nation’s leaders in athletic opportunities for women. His first move was to make the U of I one of only two schools in the nation to have a separate department for women’s sports. His first choice to lead this new department was Nell Jackson, a former Hawkeye track star, but, Jackson turned it down. Meanwhile, Christine’s mentor in the physical education department, Professor M. Glad Scot, encouraged her to apply for the job. She did, and, you guessed it – she got it!
(P-0357) So, in 1973, Christine Grant took the new position as UI Director of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women with a salary of $14,000 – and another $16,000 for everything else! “Women’s athletics had nothing back then, said Grant, “We were just club sports.” This meant that UI women students basically paid for the privilege to play sports in college. There were no uniforms – no equipment – with graduate students volunteering to be coaches. And, oh BTW, the UI Field House was not available to women for practice!
Instead, UI women athletes were given the tiny facilities in Halsey Hall (see pic above), where nothing was built to regulation. Bake sales were done in order to raise money, and field hockey games (Christine’s passion) were played – as they had for many years – on the empty field (today’s Hubbard Park) next to Danforth Chapel and the Iowa Memorial Union.
Grant describes attending a planning meeting when she was a graduate student in 1969. The purpose was to review the design for the new UI Iowa Recreation Building (see pic above), now called the Hawkeye Indoor Track Facility. The building was partially funded by student fees, but when she looked at the plans, the design did not include locker rooms or restrooms for women! Knowing that student fees were equally paid by men and women, but the funds were not being equally distributed, Grant inquired, “We pay for half the building, and we are denied access?”
Sadly at the time, many colleges and universities used student fees to subsidize men’s intercollegiate sports, while women played club sports without funding. But all that began to change when Title IX was passed. And now that Grant was given some authority on campus, she certainly knew that she needed to use it in order to get the status quo changed.
Under Dr. Grant’s leadership, UI President Willard ‘Sandy’ Boyd immediately raised 12 women’s club teams to varsity status. At the same time, Grant’s passion for sports and education transcended Iowa City, leading her to become one of the nation’s strongest voices for gender equity across the country.
Through her hard work and gritty determination, Dr. Grant became a founding member of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, and served on numerous organizational and planning committees. She served as AIAW’s president-elect, president and past president from 1979-82, and also served on the board of directors of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators from 1984-87, then served as president from 1987-89. Grant was also involved in Big Ten Conference and NCAA initiatives, especially those related to ethics, amateurism and opportunities for women. She served on the NCAA Special Committee to Review the NCAA Membership Structure (1988-90); the NCAA Special Committee on Assessing Interests of Female Student-Athletes (1993-94); and the NCAA Committee on Committees (1993-96). In addition, she was serving on the NCAA Cabinet on Academics/Eligibility and Compliance and the NCAA Subcommittee on Amateurism and Agents at the time of her retirement (2000) as Iowa’s women’s athletic director.
Christine is more than a leader in terms of athletics, important as that has been, but she was a leader in the feminist movement, opening the university to women. She is a true leader, and people warm to her. She’s not an abstraction, she’s a real human being. She is the most exceptional leader one finds. Willard “Sandy” Boyd – UI President
Christine is a pre-eminent and passionate leader who represents an entire class of pioneers that broke through barriers to the benefit of women’s sports. She and others did the heavy lifting that has afforded college women athletes the opportunities they enjoy today, and her courage and character have made her a role-model for today’s student-athletes and athletics administrators alike. Myles Brand – President of the NCAA
Dr. Grant served in the Iowa athletic department until her retirement in 2000, but remained active in the local sports scene. She also continued to teach in Iowa’s department of health and sports studies until 2006. Her influence was so great the University of Iowa’s field hockey field was renamed Dr. Christine H.B. Grant Field in 1991, was re-dedicated in 2006, and in 2019, Christine Grant Elementary School opened its doors in North Liberty, Iowa.
On December 31, 2021, Dr. Christine Grant passed from here to eternity. During her final weeks in hospice care, we find this touching story…
Godspeed, Dr. Grant. Godspeed.
Read more her-stories – Women of Iowa who truly impacted our community, our state and beyond.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Our special thanks to Iowa herstorian – Renée Sueppel – who supplied many of the details for this page. Read more here.
Dr. Christine Grant, Hawkeyesports.com
Opinion: Let’s take time to appreciate Christine Grant’s leadership in women’s sports at Iowa, Renee Sueppel, Iowa City Press Citizen, May 20, 2022
Dr. Christine Grant Passes, Hawkeyesports.com, December 31, 2021
Christine Grant, a pioneer for women’s sports and longtime University of Iowa administrator, dies at age 85, Mark Emmert & Chad Leistikow, HawkCentral.com
Dr Christine Grant, Find-A-Grave
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