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Thompson helped women get their due


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POSTED: Friday, February 06, 2009

If one person could be credited for advancing women's athletics in Hawaii it would be Donnis Thompson. Thompson, who died Tuesday at age 75, was the first women's athletic director at the University of Hawaii where she developed and coached the first Wahine track and field team.

Her contributions, however, extended far beyond the Manoa campus when she worked with the late Congresswoman Patsy Mink who authored landmark legislation, called Title IX, that would foster equality for women in athletics and academics.

Thompson, who also coached U.S. women's track teams in international competition, had a keen eye for the potential in women's sports.

In 1975, she hired Dave Shoji as coach of the Wahine volleyball team, a part-time position. A year later, she set up a match against powerhouse UCLA at what is now the Blaisdell Center and, in an unheard of move for a women's event, charged for admission. The game sold out and through the years, the volleyball program has been a steady financial success.

Thompson's vision for women's sports saw her increase programs from two to eight, boosting scholarships and shining a brighter light on female athletes.

Because of her efforts, "a thousand Rainbow Wahine have had the opportunity and privilege to represent the university," said UH associate athletic director Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano.