Former Penn State Assistant Athletic Director Durant dies

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics announced Aug. 21 that former Assistant Athletic Director and Senior Woman Adminstrator Della Durant died Aug. 20 in State College. She was 84.

Durant was instrumental in the implementation of varsity women’s athletics at Penn State. Arriving in State College in 1955, she earned her master’s in physical education and became an instructor at Penn State the next year. She helped in the development of the Women’s Intercollegiate Sports Program and was the adviser of the Women’s Recreation Association. In 1964, she was selected the first coordinator of the Women’s Varsity Sports Program.

When the Penn State men’s and women’s athletic departments combined forces in 1973, Durant was named assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator. In her new role, she became a leader and advocate in women’s intercollegiate athletics, becoming one of the first women to be selected to the NCAA council.

For her contributions, Durant was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators. Durant was also involved in multiple community activities and the Penn State Faculty Senate.

Prior to her appointment in the athletic department, Durant was a professor in the Penn State physical education department, teaching and advising students. Durant’s expertise was in teaching fear cases in swimming. Students needed to pass Penn State’s swimming test in order to graduate.

A native of Great Barrington, Mass., Durant was a graduate of Searles High School and earned her bachelor’s degree from Russell Sage College. Durant taught physical education at the Beard School in Orange, N.J., as well as the University of Delaware before her arrival in State College.

Durant is survived by her brother E. Terry and his wife, Martha, of The Villages, Fla., three nephews, 10 grand-nieces and nephews, and her friend and housemate for more than 50 years, Martha Adams.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Penn State in memory of Durant for the Della Durant Endowed Program Fund for Women’s Athletics and sent to: Old Main, University Park, PA 16802.

Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at

Comments from current and former Penn State coaches and administrators on Della Durant:

“Della was a pioneer in the whole realm of intercollegiate sports for women — and not just Penn State. She certainly helped make the transition from the coaches of women’s teams being teachers and taking on a dual role of being a coach, which of course needed to have special administrative processing at that time in the University. She was instrumental in making sure that the teams had what they needed and that the coaches were equally treated well. She will be missed.”
-- Ellen Perry, former Penn State associate athletic director and senior woman administrator

“Della Durant was a true pioneer for women’s sports at Penn State. When I came back to graduate school at Penn State in 1982, Della gave me my first opportunity in college athletics as a volunteer assistant coach with the women’s tennis team and as an intern working in her office. I will be forever grateful to Della for this opportunity – she was an outstanding mentor and leader. Later, as the head coach of women’s tennis, I reported directly to Della and always admired her passion, her professionalism, her love of Penn State and her concern for the welfare of the student-athlete. And, she understood long before most that women’s student-athletes had the same dreams and aspirations and simply needed the opportunities. Because of Della Durant, an untold number of female student-athletes have realized their dreams.”
-- Jan Bortner, Penn State assistant athletic director

“Della was a pioneer in women’s athletics in the United States and laid the foundation for the amazingly successful women’s athletic program at Penn State. She was instrumental in transitioning women’s sports from the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) to the NCAA that occurred during my tenure as women’s softball coach. She was a passionate advocate for women’s sports and a compassionate leader. Due to Della’s influence on the lives of the hundreds of student-athletes she served and the many coaches she mentored, her legacy will continue.”
-- Sue Rankin, former Penn State Softball head coach

“Della Durant was always a champion for student-athlete welfare before it was a priority with many leaders in college athletics. Her leadership provided so many coaches with a person who was determined to move the athletic program forward at Penn State. Della was a leader in providing positive opportunities for women in collegiate athletics, which continues to be reflected in the success of the women's programs at Penn State. Della's personality was uplifting, her vision was far reaching and I am blessed to be able to say she was a great friend to the Krimmel Family and we will miss her as will all who knew her.” 
-- Bob Krimmel, Saint Francis University athletic director, and former Penn State assistant athletic director and Swimming & Diving head coach


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Last Updated August 27, 2013