KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The landmark Title IX legislation turned fifty years old Thursday, June 23.
Dr. Sharon Lord has spent her life breaking that glass ceiling, from being a “first” at the University of Tennessee, to being appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense by President Reagan and being credited with helping found the UT Athletics Department.
She also worked closely with legendary coach Pat Summitt who named the Lady Vols locker room in Dr. Lord’s honor.
As Summitt said of Lord in June 2011, “it’s important to have her name and plaque displayed on our locker room for our team and teams to follow.”
Lord has, in her home, a plaque just like the one presented to her ten years ago, one that is on display at the Lady Vols locker room to this day.
As Lord shared with us, “and she (Summitt) said, ‘I want, these are her words, ‘I want an awesome woman on the entrance to that facility that tells the students, the players, what women can do with their lives.'”
Lord’s support for women goes back well before Title IX. As the University of Tennessee’s first female professor of educational psychology in 1969, she threw herself into campus culture, supporting the education of women, and finding out quickly that things needed to change.
As Coach Summitt said, “our lives are better because she came our way. From 1970 through ’73, Dr. Lord served as the chairperson of the newly found Women in Sports committee. Her research led to the initial founding and formation of the UT Athletics Department.”
“The beginning of Title IX started here prior to Title IX, so UT was ready for it when Title IX passed,” Lord said. “If you notice in my old appointment journal, the whole year is filled with task force appointments and committee meetings.”
She’ll never forget the reaction from the UT faculty representative to the NCAA when she talked about upcoming Title IX legislation and the impact it would have on women’s sports.
Lord recalls, “he leans forward and he says, ‘now, Sharon honey, surely you don’t think folks will ever pay to see girls play ball.’ Can you believe it?”
But that sentiment on campus shifted.
“There was a tidal wave of attitudinal change,” Lord said.
Every time a player sees this plaque outside the Lady Vols locker room, they’ll know the lasting impact of Dr. Sharon Lord.
As Pat Summitt said, “I want to be able to talk to our players about what she has done and why her accomplishments really matter.”
Lord was appointed by President Regan as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. She was the civilian equivalent of a 3-star general. She went on the form an international consulting business.