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Pellissippi State welcomes pioneer in athletics for Women’s History Month


Joan Cronan headshot
Joan Cronan, who led women’s athletics at the University of Tennessee from 1983 until 2012, will join Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. for a “Conversation with a Legend” event on March 19.

The first woman to lead the University of Tennessee’s athletics department – both men’s and women’s sports – will headline Women’s History Month in March at Pellissippi State Community College. 

Joan Cronan, who broke the glass ceiling at UT by serving as Interim Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director in 2011, will talk with Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. during the “Conversation with a Legend” event on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus. 

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held Tuesday, March 19, at 1:30 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville. RSVP here.   

The conversation also will be livestreamed on Zoom  

Cronan arrived at UT in 1968 to teach and coach women’s basketball. She took over as women’s athletics director in 1983 and gradually expanded the program from seven to 11 sports, oversaw the construction of several state-of-the-art venues for women’s sports and grew the operating budget to nearly $30 million by the time UT merged its men’s and women’s athletics departments in 2012, at which point Dave Hart took the reins. 

“Joan Cronan drove remarkable achievements in collegiate sports,” said Lauren Ziegler, Pellissippi State’s cultural engagement coordinator. “Under her leadership, the Tennessee Volunteers won multiple national championships, while she championed equal access.” 

During Cronan’s 29-year tenure, Tennessee women’s teams won 10 NCAA Championships, 22 SEC regular season titles and 33 league tourney trophies, finishing first or second in the SEC All-Sports Award race six times. Tennessee women’s teams logged 78 top-10 finishes under her leadership, including 41 top-five finishes. 

Cronan also teamed with legendary basketball coach Pat Head Summitt to transform the Lady Vols brand into the worldwide standard bearer and vanguard of excellence in women’s athletics. Cronan has been inducted into seven halls of fame and now serves UT in an advisory role as Women’s Athletic Director Emeritus. 

“Cronan’s commitment to fostering excellence in athletics was matched by her dedication to promoting gender equity within the department, making her a respected figure in both collegiate athletics and women’s sports administration,” Ziegler said. “Throughout her career, she has been a vocal advocate for women’s empowerment and equal opportunities, leaving a lasting legacy of leadership and inclusivity in the realm of college athletics.” 

For information on other Women’s History Month events happening at Pellissippi State, visit