KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Hundreds gathered in downtown Knoxville to honor a woman who is a proven leader right here in East Tennessee and even across the US.

Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Joan Cronan is being dubbed as this year’s Scouts BCA Great Smoky Mountain Council’s Distinguished Citizen.

Cronan is a huge fan of all things Big Orange, but she’s also a staunch supporter of scouting.

“My late husband was an eagle scout, and I grew up as a girl scout,” Cronan said. “I’ve just always admired the principles.”

Great Smoky Mountain Council Executive Vice-President Scott Taylor said, “We’re just really proud and honored to have her here tonight and to able to honor her as a distinguished citizen in East Tennessee.”

Cronan’s accomplishments are nothing short of legendary. While starting her service as women’s athletics director at the University of Tennessee in 1983, she oversaw Tennessee women’s teams winning 10 national championships, and 22 SEC regular season titles and putting women’s college athletics in the national spotlight.

She also taught some classes and no matter what she was doing, Cronan says scouts laid down the basics for her to find success.

“What we’re trying to do is make a difference in the world and where does it start?” Cronan said. “Young people, and the boy scouts and what they stand for, and the Lady Vols and what they stood for. When I think of some of Pat’s definite dozens, I think about ‘discipline yourself before somebody else has to do that’ and think about ‘take responsibility’ and that’s what the Lady Vols were about and that’s what the boy scouts are about.”

“It is amazing,” scout Jasper Sukas said. “It is one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I like it because it’s fun and adventurous and it’s fun to do. It’s more involvement in your life.”

“We pave a way for other girls who are maybe a little bit scared and they thought maybe they would be not as important in scouting and we kind of show them that they can be here too,” said Scout Jordan, who is also a scout.

“I think it’s great,” Cronan said, “They can get involved in being a girl scout, they can be a boy scout, and we’re all trying to do the same thing, is raise young people who understand what it is to be involved.”

Meet the Scouts of 2023 for East Tennessee

Cronan’s main message from Thursday night is “scouts are making a difference and always keep hustling.”