Women’s sports trailblazer honored with Wall of National Championships

Courtesy of GVSU

Courtesy of GVSU

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

A leader and advocate for women’s sports since the opening of Grand Valley State University in 1964, Joan Boand’s legacy was commemorated with a Wall of National Championships in the GVSU Fieldhouse. On Oct. 17, a small ceremony was held in her honor for the reveal of the wall, in which Boand and a few other members of the GVSU athletics program attended. There are few members of the GVSU community that know her today, but what she has done in her career for women will never be forgotten. 

Boand’s legacy began at GVSU in 1966 where she started as an assistant professor in physical education. She then soon quickly worked her way into just about every women’s sports team at GVSU.

In 1968, she began the women’s volleyball team that she coached for 26 years, winning five straight championships in a row and six total with the girls. She also won two GLIAC coach of the year awards in 1985-86. In 1974, Boand coached the women’s basketball team to four consecutive GLIAC titles as well. From 1968-75, she coached the women’s softball team with a record of 68-16. In total, she amassed 745 wins and 10 NCAA Championships.

Her astounding career doesn’t end there, as Boand served as the Associate Director of Athletics and Senior Women’s Administrator before she retired in 1999. Since then, she has offered the Joan Boand Athletic Scholarship and has been inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame. She received a lifetime achievement award from Women Leaders in College Sports. 

On top of Boand’s fulfilling career at GVSU, the impact she has had on the women’s administration and coaches is a lasting effect. Deanne Scanlon has entered her 26th season as the women’s volleyball coach this year. She fulfilled this position after Boand retired. Scanlon has only been the second ever coach for the women’s volleyball team and has now coached the team for as long as Boand did. 

“It means a lot to me to honor those people that really forged the path for me to be able to do what I do today and what I love,” Scanlon said. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in, that I was able to follow her and she was there to support me through my whole career.”

As one of Boand’s close friends that attended the event, Scanlon said she sat down with her and they talked. It wasn’t about the her award, but about gardening. Boand approached the honorary ceremony with humbleness.

“I don’t think she would like the word legend,” Scanlon said. “I don’t like the word legend either. She’s the worker, the doer. She put things into motion and got things done.”

Scanlon took her team to see the wall, in order to recognize what Boand has done for every female athlete and coach that is able to play sports at GVSU today. 

“It was very emotional for me,” Scanlon said. “I don’t know how many female athletes that are here at GVSU today that even know who Joan Boand is and I think that needs to change. I think every female student athlete here needs to know where it started with the fight, the battle she went through long before Title IX, back in the 1970s when she was trying to do the right thing.”

Boand’s fight was one of the first in the fight for women’s equality at GVSU. Her dedication to get a yes when she was consistently surrounded by no is the reason women’s sports teams exist at GVSU today. Boand is seen as a model for all women to follow, consistently fighting against the norm for what she believes is right. That fighting spirit is still in her today. 

“Joan is about five foot one, but she’s a fighter,” Scanlon said. “She still today holds the same kind of fight that she had back then I’m sure.”

Current Director of Athletics at GVSU and creator of the Joan Boand Wall, Keri Becker, spoke a few words at the event along with GVSU President Philomena Mantella. As the organizer of the event, Becker invited a tight group of alumni and family, but hopes to honor her with a big celebration in the future. Her relationship with Boand began about 20 years ago, before she filled the position of Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator after Boand retired. 

As a young softball player herself in the 70s, Becker continued having the opportunity to play sports throughout college and never really understood what people like Boand did for girls like her. Becker described Boand’s legacy with two words: difference maker. 

“You don’t think you’re that much of a difference maker when you’re doing things like that,” Becker said. “She probably didn’t. A group of girls just wanted to play and she just said yes. I don’t think she had any idea about the difference she was making. But when you think about where we’re at today, she was difference maker.” 

Thinking about all of the lives she changed with the work that she did throughout her whole career really puts into perspective how much change one person is capable of. Boand’s will and devotion for the love of sports is what got her the most deserving award GVSU could offer her. Boand was a hero for every women who is currently plays sports at GVSU or who is in the sports administration office.