Walk of Women at LSU Athletics
The first-ever signee for the LSU women’s golf program in 1979, Karen Bahnsen left a legacy of excellence at the school where she spent 38 years as part of the golf program. Following her playing career with the Tigers, she became head coach of the women’s golf team, a position she held for 34 years. She holds the distinction of being the second-longest tenured coach in LSU history. During her coaching career, she guided LSU to its first SEC Championship (1992), seven NCAA Top 10 finishes, 12 NCAA finals appearances and 40 team tournament titles. Twice named SEC Coach of the Year, she’s was inducted into the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
Women’s Basketball, Bolleyball
Joanette Boutte became the first Black woman to play varsity basketball, along with Pepper McCoy, and volleyball at LSU in 1975. She was also LSU’s first varsity two-sport student-athlete and would often practice both volleyball and basketball on the same day. Joanette finished her career ranked No. 4 in LSU history in career rebounds with 1,017 in 121 games.
Gymnastics Head Coach
D-D Breaux served as a catalyst behind the emergence of female sports at LSU during her 43 years as the school’s gymnastics coach. She dedicated her life to LSU, and even after retirement from coaching, still serves the university in an ambassador role. Her coaching career included 31 Top 10 finishes – three second place showings and a third place. She also led her teams to four SEC Championships, including three-straight from 2017-19. Individually, her gymnasts captured 15 NCAA national titles and 44 SEC championships. They also combined to claim 266 All-America honors and 91 All-SEC honors in 43 years. She’s the longest tenured coach in LSU history and one of the most impactful and influential women to be a part of the university.
Women’s Basketball, Volleyball
Jinks Coleman made her mark in LSU athletics as the first head coach in the sports of women’s basketball and volleyball. As LSU’s head coach in basketball and volleyball, she still taught five physical education classes while performing her coaching duties. In 1977, she guided LSU to its only national championship appearance when the Lady Tigers faced Delta State in the AIAW National title game.
Dr. Carolyn Collins
First Black Dean of an Academic College at LSU
Dr. Carolyn Carter Collins was an LSU Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean Emeritus. Dean Collins was the first Black Dean of an Academic College as well as the founder of the Summer Scholars, the LSU Black Faculty Staff Caucus, and the LSU Parents Association and Parents’ Weekend. She has served as a college administrator and consultant to the College Board. She was the President of the National Association of Deans and Directors of University Colleges, and President of the Southern Region of The College Board. In honor of her tireless service to our university, LSU has named a scholarship in her honor and she was named an LSU Legend by the AP Tureaud Sr LSU Black Alumni Chapter. She still serves students as a college consultant and planning expert.
The winningest volleyball coach in LSU history with over 400 wins, Fran Flory’s impact went well beyond the playing court. A coach, mentor, and friend, Fran led LSU to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, seven 20-win seasons, seven SEC Western Division titles and to the 2009 SEC Championships. Her student-athletes graduated in record numbers and 126 earned Academic All-SEC distinction. She coached the SEC Player of the Year in 2009 and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
First Female Faculty Member at LSU
Mercedes Garig served as the first female faculty member at LSU. Professor Garig began her career at LSU in 1909 serving as a Professor of English.
A 2021 inductee into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame, Yvette Girouard established a standard of excellence for LSU softball when she joined the program in 2001 after an already Hall of Fame career at Louisiana-Lafayette. Twice named National Coach of the Year along with eight conference Coach of the Year honors, she retired as the fifth-winningest coach in Division I softball history with 1,285 victories in 31 seasons. In 11 years at LSU, she led the Tigers to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances and to three SEC Championships. She’s a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
A trailblazer in women’s athletics, Sue Gunter’s impact on female sports went far beyond wins, losses, and championships. It was the impact the legendary coach had on the sport – paving a path for the game to grow to where it stands today with packed arenas, nationally televised games and a professional league. A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, she spent nearly four decades coaching women’s college basketball with 22 of those coming at LSU where she led her teams to 442 wins, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2004 Final Four. She finished her career ranked No. 3 all-time in NCAA history in wins (708) and she’s the winningest coach in LSU history. A fine player in her own right, she was a member of the U.S. National Team and was later named head coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team.
Former LSU Board of Supervisors Chair
A 1961 business administration graduate of LSU, Laura Leach was one of the most influential women in helping the growth of female athletics at her alma mater. Named to the LSU Foundation Board of Directors in 2002, she also has served on the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Tiger Athletic Foundation Board. For her service to LSU, she received the President’s Award from the LSU Foundation and was inducted into the LSU Alumni Association Hall of Distinction. She was honored as LSU’s Alumnus of the Year in 1997.
First Dean of Women at LSU
The position of Dean of Women was established at LSU in the 1916-1917 school year, with Mamie R. Lewis serving as the first Dean. Women first began enrolling in classes at LSU in 1904, but were initially considered “special students,” and were not regular members of the campus community. As the student population grew to include more and more women, the Dean of Women dealt with the administrative aspects of a coeducational campus, including housing and social activities for both on and off-campus college women.
Dr. Thelma G. “Pepper” McCoy
Dr. Pepper McCoy’s academic and athletic prowess was initially honed within a large North Central Louisiana farm family comprised of 10 siblings. Her former multi-sports athletics (basketball, track, softball, tennis) began during middle school and proceeded at Jena High School (origin of the Jena 6, 2006 racial protests) as one of the school’s first Black female basketball players and salutatorian. Proceeding high school athletics, under the state’s winningest high school basketball coach Carice Baker, Pepper was recruited as one of the first Black team members (along with Joanette Boutte) of the LSU women’s basketball program and played under Jinks Coleman. During the team’s 1976–77 season (29-8 record), it was ranked #11 in the final AP ranking, played in the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Tournament, and the 1977 AIAW National Tournament game as the first Lady Tiger basketball team to play in a national championship game. Pepper’s athletic honors at LSU include holding the team’s rebounding record for a period of years and honorably mentioned All-American. Although a persistently reoccurring shoulder injury limited Pepper’s active time with the team beyond the memorable historic season, she eventually successfully rehabilitated it and remains an avid recreational sports participant and fan. Notably, during the extensive rehab periods the opportunity to focus more heavily on academic and her family resulted in her eventually earning a master’s degree (University of Houston) and doctorate (University of Texas at Austin) proceeding a passionate vocation working as a full-time and adjunct faculty member for several universities, founder/director of a 501c non-profit organization, writer, and activist engaged in educational and community-based diversity, equity, and inclusion endeavors.
Women’s Tennis, Coordinator Women’s Athletics
Pat Newman served as the first women’s tennis coach at LSU, coaching the Lady Tigers from its club sports status in 1973 until 1979 when it became an established varsity sport. In 1977, she was named Coordinator for Women’s Athletics at LSU, helping bring the AIAW National Championships for both tennis and gymnastics to Baton Rouge. On the court, she led her LSU tennis teams to a 71-24 overall mark, won three straight Louisiana AIAW Championships and coached the first two singles All-Americas in school history in Kay McDaniel and Ebie Taylor. Before joining LSU Athletics, she spent time in the chancellor’s office on campus and later spent one year as LSU’s Title IX Coordinator.
Pearl Henry Payne
First Black Female Graduate
Pearl Henry Payne was the first Black female to graduate from LSU and spent nearly four decades teaching Louisiana’s youth in Natchitoches. Payne earned her Masters of Education from LSU in 1956.
Freya Anderson Rivers
First Black Student Admitted to LSU
Dr. Freya Anderson Rivers has diversified experience as an author, consultant, superintendent, principal, teacher, publisher, retail business owner, and a leader in government, economic and social issues. She is the author and editor of many publications. Freya has served as president and founder of several businesses and educational organizations. She desegregated East Baton Rouge Parish Schools in 1963 and filed suit and desegregated Louisiana State University in 1964. She was the first Black student admitted to the undergraduate campus of Louisiana State University, the first Black buyer for a major department store, Goudchaux’s, and one of the first Black females in Louisiana to seek a statewide elected position, Secretary of State for Louisiana.
Track & Field
Lurline Struppeck became the first female inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991. She holds the distinction as becoming the first female to receive an athletic scholarship at LSU, that coming in 1964 when she was given a partial scholarship to compete for the LSU men’s track and field team. She threw the javelin for the LSU men’s team and later went on to compete for the U.S. National Track and Field Teams and competed against the U.S.S.R in Moscow in 1965. She later went on to graduate from LSU in 1968 with a degree in education.
Ebie Taylor earned the first full scholarship ever given in women’s tennis in the SEC in 1977. The nation’s No. 1-ranked junior player, Taylor joined Kay McDaniel in 1978 as the first singles All-Americas in LSU history. She won 132 singles matches and 111 doubles matches during her career at LSU, ranking her as the winningest player in school history in singles and doubles victories combined.
One of the best players in the history of the SEC, Joyce Walker is the first LSU women’s basketball player named to the prestigious State Farm All-America Team twice. LSU’s all-time leading scorer with 2,906 points, averaging 24.8 points per game for her career. She capped her career as the only player in school history ranked among the Top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. She was named to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in the summer of 1997 and the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017. She gained world-wide notoriety when she became only the third female to join the Harlem Globetrotters.
1974 Volleyball Team
In the fall of 1974, volleyball became the first female varsity sport to compete for LSU, paving the way for
unmatched success for all of the women’s sports that have since followed. Coached by Jinks Coleman, LSU’s first volleyball team posted a 23-6 record in 1974.