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University of Chicago Department of Athletics & Recreation

Mary Jean Mulvaney, 1927-2019

Mary Jean Mulvaney, 1927-2019

CHICAGO – Former University of Chicago Director of Athletics and Professor Emerita Mary Jean Mulvaney passed away on September 20 at the age of 92.

A beloved and pioneering figure in the rich history of UChicago Athletics & Recreation, Mulvaney served the department for 24 years from 1966-90. During that time, she became one of the nation's first female athletic directors of a coeducational department.

Mulvaney arrived at the Hyde Park campus in 1966 as chair of the Department of Physical Education - Women's Division. She also held Associate Professor and Professor status within the University.

In 1976, Mulvaney became chair of a consolidated men's and women's athletic department. She held the title of Director of Athletics up through her retirement in 1990, when she assumed Professor Emerita status.

Mulvaney was a stalwart champion for and supporter of UChicago athletics. She raised the profile of the department within the University community, while also starting and nurturing the growth of the women's varsity program. The department increased its women's sports offerings from two to nine during her tenure. UChicago now sponsors 20 varsity sports (10 women, 10 men) that compete within NCAA Division III.

Among her career highlights, Mulvaney presided over the women's programs move to the NCAA in 1981. She was also one of the driving forces behind the formation of the University Athletic Association (UAA). The UAA was created in 1986 as a league comprised of private, research institutions in major metropolitan areas who are committed to the NCAA Division III philosophy. The UAA believes "that it is highly desirable and possible for a group of committed institutions to conduct a broad-based program of intercollegiate athletics for men and women; to compete with like academic institutions spread over geographically expansive areas; and to seek excellence in athletics while maintaining a perspective which holds the student-athlete and the academic mission of the institution as the center of focus."

Mulvaney's active involvement inside the UAA included roles as Secretary and Chair of the Athletic Administrators' Committee, as well as member of the Executive Committee. She ultimately received the UAA Founders Medal, and was recognized for her contributions in 2012 during the conference's silver anniversary celebration.

In the wake of her retirement, Mulvaney was feted by numerous organizations for her legacy as an athletic administrator. She was an inductee of the UChicago Athletics Hall of Fame and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (now known as Women Leaders in College Sports).

UChicago inaugurated the Mary Jean Mulvaney Scholar-Athlete Award in her honor. The award is presented annually to a male and female senior with the highest GPA.

Mulvaney was active on the national level as well. She served on committees for the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, NACDA, the Division III Executive Council and NCAA Council.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Mulvaney attended Omaha Benson High School. She earned her bachelor's degree from University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1948, and her master's degree from Wellesley College in 1951. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1986.

Prior to her tenure at UChicago, Mulvaney taught at Kansas State University, Nebraska – Lincoln and University of Kansas.

The family requests in lieu of flowers to please send donations to University of Chicago Friends of Maroon Athletics.

Donations may be made online here (LINK), or checks (payable to "The University of Chicago") may be mailed to:

University of Chicago Athletics
ATTN: Rosalie Resch
Ratner Athletics Center
5530 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL    60637

Funeral services will be held at Roper and Sons Funeral Services in Lincoln, Neb. Burial will be immediately following at the Lincoln Memorial Park and Mausoleum.