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Hawaii women's athletics loses its champion


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POSTED: Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Former Hawaii women's athletic director Dr. Donnis Thompson, a pioneer and champion of women's sports for over four decades, died yesterday in Leahi Hospital. She was 75.

“;Personally, she was just a wonderful, special woman, my role model and mentor,”; said Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, UH associate athletic director. “;We were fortunate that she was home for the last year and a half and we were able to show our appreciation and gratitude for everything she did.

“;We are so grateful to her. She persevered and because of her, a thousand Rainbow Wahine have had the opportunity and privilege to represent the university.”;

Thompson arrived at UH in 1961 to develop and coach the first Wahine track and field team, a position she held for three years. She returned to Hawaii in 1972 as the school's first women's athletic director and served in that capacity until 1981, when she became the Hawaii state superintendent of education.

Thompson hired Dave Shoji to coach the Wahine volleyball team in 1975. Thirty-three seasons later, Shoji is on the verge of becoming the second women's volleyball coach to reach 1,000 victories.

“;At the time she hired me, I didn't realize what a visionary she was, what a champion for women's rights,”; said Shoji, who visited Thompson in the hospital last week. “;I didn't know until much later what she was all about. She was the reason things were happening for me and the department.”;

A milestone for Thompson and Wahine volleyball was reached when a match against UCLA was played at the Blaisdell Arena in 1976. It sold out.

Thompson was inducted into the UH Sports Circle of Honor in 2007. That October, a sculpture of her was unveiled on the concourse of the Stan Sheriff Center.

Her most recent award was last year, when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators.