July 14, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The YWCA announced Sunday that Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee women's athletics director emeritus, consultant and advisor to the chancellor, will be recognized as a Lifetime Achievement Honoree.
Cronan will be inducted into the Lifetime Achievement listing at its 29th-annual Tribute To Women on Aug. 15 on the U.S. Cellular Stage at the historic Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. The event is East Tennessee's foremost acknowledgement and appreciation of the contributions of local women.
A native of Opelousas, La., Cronan first came to Knoxville in 1968 to teach at the University of Tennessee and coach women's basketball. After serving as athletics director, coach, and professor at the College of Charleston from 1973 to 1983, she and her family returned to East Tennessee in 1983 to make Knoxville their permanent home.
She has forged a highly decorated career in collegiate athletics as an administrator and advocate for student-athletes. She is respected nationally for her skills as a leader, motivator, strategic thinker, public speaker and team builder, and for the integrity with which she runs an organization.
Taking over as women's athletics director at UT in 1983, she gradually expanded the program from seven to 11 sports, helped the department increase annual giving from $75,000 to $2 million per year and oversaw a budget that grew from $1.2 million to $5.2 million over a 13-year span.
Under her watch, Pat Summitt and the Lady Vol basketball team became the winningest program in the history of the game, claiming eight NCAA National Championships. The women's track and field team also captured NCAA titles, winning indoor crowns in 2005 and 2009. The department-wide success among all women's sports teams was matched by an expectation for excellence in the classroom and a philosophy of giving back to the community.
A history-maker, she holds the distinction of becoming the first female athletics director for the entire department at UT when she served as Interim Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director in 2011.
Cronan joins 11 previous Lifetime Achievement honorees: Helen Ashe, Donna Cobble, Pam Fansler, Sarah Moore Greene, Mary Lou Horner, Debra London, Pat Summitt, Mintha Roach, Barbara Reid, Liane Russell and Ellen Turner. Each of the Lifetime Achievement honorees have broken barriers, been a "first" in East-Tennessee, and opened the door for the women who followed.
In addition to Cronan's distinction, the YWCA will honor outstanding women in the community through its Tribute to Women celebration. This year's event emphasizes work and dedication to Equality, Empowerment, and Transformation by 21 selected finalists.
These themes reflect the mission of the YWCA, which is to eliminate racism, empower women, and create peace, justice, dignity and freedom for all. Six honorees will be announced at the event in August. The finalists represent nominations from all nine counties of East Tennessee and were selected among all the impressive and highly-accomplished nominees by a distinguished panel of out-of-state judges.
The Tribute to Women event started in 1985 as a platform to honor women in our community. At the time, all local award ceremonies were honoring business men. The YWCA Knoxville's signature event recognizing the outstanding contributions of local women began with categories such as Business, Education, Science, and Technology when few women were involved in those fields. Today, the YWCA has recognized more than 200 women in East Tennessee.
The 2013 Tribute to Women Finalists include:
"This is my seventh year coordinating the event and I cannot express how wonderful our finalists are this year," said Danielle Benson, Director of Operations for the YWCA. "They are so inspiring."
This year's judges' panel includes psychiatrist and neurologist Dr. Kathern Lee Plenge; President and Chief Executive Officer of America's Promise Alliance, Marguerite Kondracke; and President of Chicago Genealogical Society, Julie Benson.