Former Penn State assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator Della Durant died on Tuesday in State College. She was 84.
Durant was instrumental in the implementation of varsity women’s athletics at Penn State. Arriving in State College in 1955, she earned her masters in physical education and became an instructor at Penn State the next year. She helped in the development of the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Program and was the adviser of the Women’s Recreation Association. In 1964, she was selected the first coordinator of the women’s varsity sports program.
When the Penn State men’s and women’s athletic departments combined in 1973, Durant was named assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator. In her new role, she became a leader and advocate in women’s intercollegiate athletics, becoming one of the first women to be selected to the NCAA council.
For her contributions, Durant was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators. Durant was also involved in multiple community activities and the Penn State Faculty Senate.
“Della was a pioneer in the whole realm of intercollegiate sports for women — and not just Penn State,” said Ellen Perry, former Penn State associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, in a university release. “She certainly helped make the transition from the coaches of women’s teams being teachers and taking on a dual role of being a coach, which of course needed to have special administrative processing at that time in the university. She was instrumental in making sure that the teams had what they needed and that the coaches were equally treated well. She will be missed.”
“Della was a pioneer in women’s athletics in the United States and laid the foundation for the amazingly successful women’s athletic program at Penn State,” former Nittany Lion softball coach Sue Rankin said. “She was instrumental in transitioning women’s sports from the AIAW to the NCAA that occurred during my tenure as women’s softball coach. She was a passionate advocate for women’s sports and a compassionate leader.”
A native of Great Barrington, Mass., Durant was a graduate of Searles High School and earned her bachelor’s degree from Russell Sage College. Durant taught physical education at the Beard School in Orange, N.J. and at the University of Delaware before her arrival in State College.
Durant is survived by her brother E. Terry and his wife, Martha, three nephews, 10 grand-nieces and nephews and her friend and housemate for more than 50 years Martha Adams.
Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home in State College.