Joseph Kearney

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Joe Kearney

Joseph L. “Joe” Kearney (April 28, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – May 5, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona) was a renowned coach and sports administrator in university athletics.

Life and work[edit]

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Kearney attended Seattle Pacific University and attained his BA degree in History. He was also a member of the SPU basketball team. This was then followed by teaching and coaching stints in Paradise High School (Paradise, California); the University of Washington (as assistant basketball coach for Tippy Dye) and Sunnyside High School (Sunnyside, Washington). He then became a high school principal in the state of Washington when he was hired by Onalaska High School (Onalaska, Washington), where he also taught and coached. In 1961, he was appointed as the inaugural principal at Tumwater High School in Tumwater, Washington. He concurrently pursued and completed a Master's degree in Education at San Jose State University and moved back to the University of Washington to finish his PhD, where he was also strongly linked to the UW Athletic Department and quickly rose to the rank of assistant athletic director under the legendary Jim Owens, who was UW football coach and Athletic Director when Kearney joined the Athletic Department. From this position, he was appointed athletic director for the University of Washington when Jim Owens decided to focus solely on his job as football coach.

In addition to the above roles, Kearney also served as the Assistant Executive Director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). For sixteen years he served the U.S. Olympic Committee as a committee member and later as a USOC Committee Chairman. He was then named to the USOC Board of Directors and in 1996 he was awarded the USOC Olympic Torch Award.

He retired to Tucson, Arizona and lived there for fifteen years with his wife Dorothea Kearney (born 3 January 1927 in Shelton, Washington, deceased 5 February 2011 in Denver, Colorado). He was the father of five children (Jan Veile, Kevin Kearney, Erin Leary, Shawn Bassham and Robin Kearney) and had eleven grandchildren (Christopher Kearney; Katie Kearney; Nicholas Kearney; Emma Kearney; Ryan Kearney; Aaron Bassham; Seth Bassham; Graham Veile; Laurel Howard; Trey Howard and Adrian Leary).

Kearney died on May 5, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona, after an eight-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Professional career[edit]

Kearney served as athletic director at three major universities:

He was Commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) from 1980 until his retirement in 1994.

In 1991, Joe Kearney was nominated by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) to be its recipient of the Corbett Award, which is the highest honor in university sports administration.

Professional Highlights and Honors[edit]