Mary P. Roby, 1926-2012
A true Wildcat Athletics pioneer...
Jan. 31, 2012
University of Arizona athletics pioneer Mary Pavlich Roby died yesterday in Tucson. She was 85.
Roby was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics hall of fame in 1995, six years after her retirement from the UA staff, a tenure that spanned three decades during one of the dramatic periods in the growth of college sports.
She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators and her name graces a UA building - the Mary Roby Gymnastics Training Facility outside McKale Center.
She was involved, first as a UA undergraduate, then as professor in exercise and sports sciences, coach and administrator, in Arizona's women's athletics program from its informal club-status years to its high-profile productive NCAA Division I status. Today's world - sanctioned women's sports championships across the board, national television, equitable funding - was unheard of at the beginning of her work in athletics.
She helped create the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), and later she and then athletics director Cedric Dempsey were involved in joining the university's men's and women's sports in the early 1980s, taking a national leadership role in combined programs.
"Dr. Roby's work has huge historical significance. We look back to a number of visionaries and people behind the success of University of Arizona athletics, and none have had a more dramatic impact than Mary," said Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne.
"Mary was one of the true pioneers in the growth of women's athletics," said Rocky LaRose, deputy athletics director at UA and a Roby protégé. "Her leadership and advocacy has led to thousands of sport opportunities for young girls and women, not just at Arizona but across the nation. Her pride and joy, though, was the UA program. The foundation she laid has led this program to the great successes we enjoy today," LaRose said.
Roby was born in Miami, Ariz., in 1926, the daughter of Croation immigrants, and arrived at the UA as a student in 1944. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1948, a master's degree from Smith College in 1949 and a doctorate from Southern California in 1971. She became a UA faculty member in 1959 to begin her long professional association as a Wildcat.
Along the way she earned a full professorship, directed the UA Women's Recreation Association, served as women's athletics director, was responsible for creating most UA women's athletic programs, served on numerous committees of the AIAW, NCAA and the Pac-10 Conference, and was one of the first women named to NACDA's Executive Committee and to the board of the United States Sports Academy. She was president of the Intermountain Athletic Conference and the Western Collegiate Athletic Association during those affiliations, vice president of the Pac-10, and was a founder and board member of the Council of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators.
She was inducted into the UA's Mortar Board Hall of Fame in 1981, the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the NACDA Hall of Fame in 1995, among other honors. She remained active in UA athletics in recent decades as a member of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.
Her work experience outside Arizona included stints at the Universities of Texas, California, Arizona State and Colorado. At the time of her retirement in 1989 she was associate director of athletics for sports programs, one of Dempsey's top aides in charge of administering 15 men's and women's sports.
She is survived by her husband, Fred Roby, who also is a retired University of Arizona professor emeritus.