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Late Montana State administrator Ginny Hunt was 'a pioneer' for women's athletics

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Posted at 8:37 AM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 10:37:25-05

(Editor's note: Montana State athletics release)

BOZEMAN — It only seems fitting that former Montana State Director of Women’s Athletics Dr. Virginia ‘Ginny’ Hunt would quietly exit the sports arena in a year which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. Hunt, a pioneer and visionary of women in collegiate athletics not only at Montana State, but at a national level, as well, passed away on Friday morning at her home in Iowa surrounded by family.

“I am saddened, we lost an incredibly inspirational Bobcat who has been instrumental in so many lives over the past 40-50 years at Montana State,” said MSU women’s basketball head coach Tricia Binford. “She has believed in this University, athletic department and been a pioneer in creating opportunities for our student-athletes. We have all lost a very special, passionate, and dedicated fighter.”

From an early age, Hunt fought for opportunities for women in competitive athletics. Raised in Iowa and a life-long Hawkeyes fan, she was more than capable of holding her own when playing sports against the boys. Along with her parents, Hunt went to numerous Iowa men’s basketball games, and while she watched, would dream of playing on the Hawkeye court.

As an undergrad, Hunt’s frustrations of not being able to compete in athletics compounded. While the men were able to do whatever they wanted athletically, women were permitted to play intramurals twice a week. Hunt vowed at that time that she would become a facilitator for change.

Following graduation, Hunt arrived at the College of Wooster, a private liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio, in 1962. She started her teaching career as an instructor in the women’s physical education department but rose quickly to an assistant professor before becoming associate professor in 1970.

At the time, Wooster, now a NCAA Division III school, had women’s club programs in basketball, field hockey and volleyball. The clubs moved to varsity status in 1965, and Hunt coached the field hockey and volleyball teams. In 1970, she served as the first Director of Athletics for Women at Wooster.

Hunt went on to earn her Ph. D. at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. And, in 1976 moved on to work at the NCAA Division I level as the associate athletic director at the University of Michigan.

On July 13, 1977, Hunt was announced as the first women’s athletics director at Montana State.

“We feel we have the potential for a first class women’s program at Montana State,” said Ellen Kreighbaum, who headed up the eight-person search committee to fill the position at the time. “The reason we could attract a national caliber administrator to come to MSU was the salary. The salary is comparable with those in the men’s athletics department.

“Ginny brings a wealth of experience as an administrator, an extensive background in coaching numerous sports and she is also a highly respected official,” Kreighbaum added. “She will be able to unlock the door and open some opportunities we might have never had. I think our women’s athletics program will be the model for other women’s athletic programs.”

MSU’s thriving women’s athletic programs will stand forever as testimony to Hunt’s success. At her first women’s basketball game at MSU, she was one of 250 fans. At her last game as Montana State’s women’s AD, there were 5,000 people, and Montana State won the program’s first-ever Big Sky Championship.

“What a legacy Dr. Ginny Hunt left at Montana State,” said former Bobcat head coach Judy Spoelstra, who guided the MSU women’s basketball program to its first Big Sky Conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance. “She was a terrific builder for women’s athletics and responsible for providing so many young women an opportunity to compete.

“Ginny always gave me wonderful advice and guidance during my time at Montana State,” Spoelstra added. “Working long hours after each season, she always reminded me that I would be better prepared for the next season only if I took a break. She battled for our team and players in more ways than people would ever know. She made sure our team felt valued.”

While working tirelessly to build MSU’s women’s athletic program, Hunt also was a strong voice on the national level for opportunities in athletics at all levels for women. To that end, she was actively involved throughout her career in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee. Hunt chaired the AIAW Ethics Committee and was the organization’s President-Elect when it was folded into the NCAA. She was honored by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) as one of its Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

“Ginny was a pioneer for women’s athletics, especially here at Montana State,” said MSU Director of Athletics Leon Costello. “She was respected by her peers nationally for her accomplishments and was a leader when it came to the Bobcats. As the first women’s Athletics Director at MSU, she paved the way for what MSU women’s athletics is today. She was a strong and determined professional woman and I was lucky enough to call her a friend. She will be greatly missed by so many.”

A list of Hunt’s accolades would take days to compile. Making a list of all those she touched, mentored, inspired, and loved would take a lifetime.

“I had the good fortune to have Ginny hire me in the fall of 1981,” said former MSU cross country/track and field head coach Dale Kennedy. “I was at Spokane Community College in the mid 70’s and was aware of her impact on the fight/ battle for the opportunities for women in sports. She was a passionate-warrior for women’s athletics. Women athletes and coaches owe a great deal respect and honor for her fighting spirit in the battle for the women’s opportunities in sports. I so appreciated her devotion to and for Bobcat Athletics. She never missed a home cross country or track and field meet. She was always at every athletic event. She was a coach’s AD.”

Hunt was a pioneer, a visionary, a leader, a champion, an advocate, an administrator, but most of all, a friend.

“One night after a tough loss, and I was already home watching game film, Ginny came by and knocked on my door and said ‘…you need to go to Spectators (a local Bozeman watering hole),’” Spoelstra chuckled. “She had orchestrated a large group of parents and fans to make our players and coaching staff feel like we had won. That next year, we won the Big Sky Championship. Ginny left her mark on this world.”