Dr. Donnis Thompson blazed a trail in women’s collegiate sports as the University of Hawai’i’s (UH) first full-time women’s athletic director in 1976 after serving in that capacity as a part-timer since 1972.

During her tenure (1972-1981), Thompson worked tirelessly to place UH in compliance with Title IX, and she raised the bar in the number of women sports from two to seven, number of women’s athletic scholarships from a few to 30 percent, and UH women’s program national reputation and visibility.

Her vision for a nationally competitive sports program took shape as she pushed to host national collegiate tournaments at UH and embarked on a personal public relations effort that instilled UH pride and positively changed perceptions of women’s athletics. In 1977, Thompson and UH welcomed the first AIAW National Golf Tournament, and annually since, UH hosts an intercollegiate golf tournament that now bears her name. In 1981, Thompson extended a full-time head coach contract to part-time volleyball coach, Dave Shoji. The success of the UH women’s volleyball program from 1972 when it earned varsity status to placing no lower than third, nationally, in seven AIAW seasons gave Thompson the courage to begin charging fans to see women’s volleyball. Coach Shoji and the UH Women’s Volleyball team have not disappointed as they fulfilled the vision as a perennial NCAA top ten program.

A former track star, and later the UH women’s track Coach in the 1960s, Thompson produced two National AAU champions. After leaving UH in 1981, Thompson became the Superintendent of the State of Hawai’i Department of Education. She was inducted into the UH Circle of Honor in 2000.

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