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Marlene Mawson

2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient — L. Marlene Mawson

UCM President Chuck Ambrose, left, and UCM Alumni Association Board President Jennifer Maijala '01, right, present the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award to Marlene Mawson '62.


Watch the video that aired that night about Marlene.


L. Marlene Marson, '62, known as the "mother" of women's athletics at the University of Kansas, was honored Oct. 25, 2013, as the UCM Alumni Association presented her with the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award.

In 1960, Marlene Mawson took an "extramural leadership" class at UCM, giving her the initial sport organization experience she desired, inspiring her passion for women’s athletics. "The positive influence UCM had on Mawson branded her for life," said Robert Lockwood, a professor emeritus of the University of Kansas and Mawson's former colleague. "She single-handedly formulated and elevated women's athletics at the University of Kansas and was a national voice and leader for the enacement of Title IX regulation."


Mawson spent four years of her academic career at UCM devoted to playing basketball, volleyball and softball games. She graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She then taught high school physical education and became a coach for girls' athletics in the Kansas City, Mo., school district for six years.

In 1968, Mawson became a full-time physical education faculty member for KU. Her new position gave her responsibility over the physical education of students and presented her the opportunity to change the face of women athletics at the university. Mawson initiated the first intercollegiate women's sports program at KU. Under her direction, the sports program increased from six teams to nine and from a $2,000 to a six-figure budget.

She earned the title, "Mother of KU Women’s Athletics" after devoting 22 years of her life to KU. During her time there, Mawson coached four collegiate sports, coordinated the undergraduate academic classes in physical education and directed the women’s athletic program. Read more about Mawson in a Today magazine feature.


"Her support allowed me to feel important and capable as I participated in classwork and athletics. She was a role model for me as I entered and maintained my 36-year career as teacher and coach," said Kerry Kapfer, former KU athlete. Mawson also was an active member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. For 10 years she was a faculty representative for AIAW, served as director of the Second AIAW National Volleyball Championships and became president of AIAW Region 6.

In 2009, Mawson was inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of women's sports at KU. “She has been a messenger of hope, an instigator of change, and an unselfish vessel of educational optimism. These qualities are a tribute to the educational experience and training she received at UCM,” said Lockwood.


Today, Mawson resides in Lawrence, Kan. where she gives advice to sports teams and students on the KU campus, among her other activities.