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Distinguished Alumnus Mawson

2013 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient —Dr. Marlene Mawson

Dr. Marlene Mawson
Dr. Marlene Mawson


In 1960, Dr. 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 Dr. Mike Morton, former colleague. Mawson spent four years of her academic career at UCM devoted to playing basketball, volleyball and softball games for the university. She graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. She then taught high school physical education and became a coach for girls’ athletics in the Kansas City, Missouri school district for six years.

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

The “Mother of KU Women’s Athletics” devoted the next 22 years of her talent 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. “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 was also an active member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. For ten years she was a faculty representative for AIAW, served as Director of the 2nd 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 Morton.
Today, Mawson resides in Lawrence, Kan. where she gives advice to sports teams and students on the KU campus.