Doris Meyer a champion for women in sports at Pacific

Doris Meyer

Doris Meyer

Professor Emerita Doris Meyer has witnessed the impressive growth of women’s sports at University of the Pacific for more than 60 years and predicts a bright future as she reflects on the 50th anniversary of Title IX. 

Title IX, a federal law which protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, was enacted in June 1972.

Meyer joined Pacific in 1956 as a professor in health, exercise and sport sciences and later also worked as an adviser and coach until her retirement in 1990. She was the recipient of a Faculty Mentor Award in 2018.

“Title IX has helped women in many ways, particularly those athletes who can now do things that their grandmothers never thought possible,” said Meyer. “I think if there’s any carryover, it is that young people will perhaps have an understanding of what led up to it, not just historically, but emotionally.”

For decades, Meyer has attended many Pacific athletic events, including basketball and volleyball games. She has seen Tiger women’s sports grow significantly since the days of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women—a women’s sports governing body that preceded the NCAA.

Meyer was involved with the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance long before the NCAA and Title IX. As one of the few female professors at Pacific, she directed intramural activities, advised the Women’s Recreation Association and coached swimming and tennis. She also created and coached the Pacific field hockey program at Pacific.

She worked closely with Pacific’s former Athletics Director Cedric Dempsey, who later became the executive director of the NCAA, and with Cindy Spiro, a trailblazing women’s athletics administrator at Pacific.

“Cedric and I thought that we not only should provide for elite athletes, but also physical educators who would go out in the schools and become teachers and coaches,” Meyer said. “And if they were provided the opportunity to play at a higher level, then they could pass that on to their students.”

Added Spiro: “Doris was one of the most popular professors on campus, and she was coordinating athletics on the side. She was also well connected and respected among the Northern California women administrators.”

Meyer said it was important to hire “quality coaches” for women’s athletics.

“Pacific wanted the best,” Meyer said. “And so (volleyball coach) Terry Liskevych was our very first hire. He built the program and later became the United States national coach for the Olympics. John Dunning took over and Pacific won two national championships (1985 and 1986).”

Meyer also teamed with Ed Betz, a speech professor, dean of students and NCAA faculty representative, to study women’s athletics and Title IX. Meyer said she “trusted Betz to bring her thoughts to that committee.”

Even in a new era of women’s athletics the importance of opportunity must be stressed, Meyer said.

“In a really great competitive tennis match, let’s say, you try your very best to win,” she said. "But after the match is over, you love your opponent who has provided you with the opportunity to move up to a different level. It is like going back and saying, ‘The fun of it all is the opportunity that we’re provided.’”