By Adriana F. DeLeon
Dr. Stacey Johnson, interim vice president of academic affairs at Palo Alto College, has been named one of the 100 Most Influential Sports Educators in America by the Institute for International Sport.
The institute reviewed 1,500 nominations and announced the winners Oct. 17.
A committee composed of coaches, athletic administrators, journalists and academicians, and chaired by David Bloss, a former sports editor for the Providence Journal, reviewed 200 finalists prior to choosing the final selection.
When Johnson was notified about the news, she was very “surprised.”
“I had no idea I was being considered,” Johnson said.
Familiar names in the top 100 included golfer Tiger Woods and Cal Ripken Jr., a hall of fame baseball player.
Women on the list include Billie Jean King, a retired tennis player and founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation, and Diana Lopiano, former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
The fact that Johnson was chosen and a part of the list was an honor, she said.
At a young age, she was very active and would spend time riding her horse, but ended up selling her horse to pursue fencing lessons.
Fencing is the art of practicing armed combat involving cutting and stabbing with three types of weapons: foil, épée and saber.
This has always been her passion and created a positive transition into college.
“It enabled me to go to college because I got an athletic scholarship to go to school, and it really changed my life,” she said.
In the 1960s and 1970s, women who played sports were not treated equally as men and were not given athletic scholarships.
Most colleges and universities traditionally emphasized sports for male students, and the benefits and educational opportunities in athletic programs were limited for women, she said.
“I was one of the first of 200 women in the state of California to get an athletic scholarship. I could not have gone to college had I not gotten an athletic scholarship,” she said.
Title 9 of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal statute that was created to prohibit sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial assistance.
“Title 9 came into existence in 1979, I believe, and I went to school in 1980, so I was one of the very first to get the benefit of that new federal legislation that mandated that if men were going to get scholarships, women had to get scholarships,” she said.
As a result of the amendment, it allowed her to be the first woman to hold a four-year term as president of the U.S. Fencing Association.
During her tenure as president, she led a successful international political campaign to garner equity for women fencers in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
For example, a man could fence with all three weapons, but women were only allowed to fence with one weapon, the foil, she said.
Johnson fought hard for women to also use the saber, bringing a happy ending for the U.S. women’s team because they won gold and bronze in Athens for the first time in more than 100 years, she said.
“I feel very proud about that because it was through my work on the international level doing all the politicking that we got women to have total equity in the sport,” she said.
Women will continue to fight for equity because in many fields, women are still not receiving equal treatment.
“Women in this country are still fighting and would like a legislation that would demand equal pay for equal work for women,” she said.
Billie Jean King inspired her because King was involved in a televised competition, the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match against Bobby Riggs, who lost.
“It was the first time on national television that a man and a woman played competitively against each other, and Billie Jean won,” Johnson said
Johnson is working with King and serving as the San Antonio Sports Foundation Chair of Women’s Sports Foundation’s Grant Committee for GoGirlGo.
“GoGirlGo is a program to get more than 100,000 sedentary girls active,” she said.
The goal is to get girls active by 2008 through awarding more than $500,000 in grants to girl-serving agencies.
“Girls who participate in sports make better grades in school and stay in school,” she said. “The next thing is that they have lower rates of teenage pregnancies. They have better levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. They are able to have more autonomy over their lives. In other words, if a boy is asking you to do something you don’t want to do … girls have a lot easier time saying no.”
Her focus is education and wants others to know that education is power no matter what subject it is.
Education has transformed her life.
The goals on her list have not ended.
“My goal is to continue to work in this community to help people through the power of education,” she said.