The woman who brought women’s athletics at Missouri State University to the forefront died Tuesday afternoon at a local hospital.
Dr. Mary Jo Wynn was 87.
“Today’s news comes with true sorrow,” MSU Director of Athletics Kyle Moats said in a press statement. “The impact she had on our campus, particularly within Intercollegiate Athletics, is felt every single day. She was a visionary and true champion for student-athletes. She was a true friend to every fan of the Bears and Lady Bears and will be deeply missed.”
Dr. Wynn, a Hartville, MO native, was an educator and coach whose career at MSU spanned four decades. She became the first director of women’s athletics at MSU in 1975 and when the men’s and women’s athletic departments merged in 1992 she was named senior associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator.
Dr. Wynn held those latter positions until her 1998 retirement.
Dr. Wynn was a key leader in the formation of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW). She was an executive board member for AIAW staring in 1977. She helped form the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference. She was named the National Association of College Women’s Athletic Administrators District 7 Administrator of the Year in 1992.
Among her many honors Dr. Wynn was given a permanent place on the Missouri State University Wall of Fame in 2003; John Sanders Spirit of the Valley Award in 2009; named a Missouri Sports Legend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 and inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame in 2017.
Dr. Wynn also helped found the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame, was the first female Rotarian in the city of Springfield and served on the City Board of Utilities.
MSU President Clif Smart called Dr. Wynn “the leading trailblazer/legacy/legend of women’s athletics at Missouri State” and that she will be missed by everyone “who loves the Missouri State bears.”
Tom Ladd, the “voice” of Lady Bears Basketball, called Dr. Wynn “a true pioneer.”
“I’ll always remember the stories of her organizing a group of local business people and ladies in the area and working on marketing measures to improve attendance at Lady Bear games in the 80’s and 90’s,” Ladd told OI. “Those early meetings led to the juggernaut of National dominance for Cheryl Burnett coached teams at SMS, now Missouri State University, in which the team led the nation or ranked very high in attendance figures for several straight seasons. She was able to get things done in this community that no one could get done and it had a great impact on the Women’s Athletic programs at MSU. She will be truly missed.