Jane McIlroy left an indelible footprint on the Linfield athletic department during her 32 years of service to the college.
She was a unabashed pioneer and champion of women's sports in the Northwest. McIlroy shepherded women's sports from infancy to adolescence. Before McIlroy's arrival at Linfield in 1950, there were no women's athletics, at least not in the context that we acknowledge them today. Opportunities for women to compete in sports were limited to "Play Days" and "Sports Days."
As physical education professor, women's athletic director and coach of all sports, McIlroy spent the 1950s and '60s developing teams and competitive programs. She was the first woman in the country to govern a college athletic program, an accomplishment recognized at the 1982 national convention of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
During the 1960s and '70s, McIlroy coached Linfield women's teams to conference championships in field hockey, volleyball, basketball, tennis and track and field. She was athletic director in 1981 when the Linfield volleyball team, coached by Shane Kimura, finished second at the national AIWA championship tournament.
McIlroy helped organize the Women's Conference of Independent Colleges and twice served as its president. In 1981, she was one of six professional women honored by the Guisti Tournament of Champions as an Oregon Pioneer in Women's Sports. Upon her retirement in 1982, the Northwest College Women's Sports Association presented her with an award plaque in recognition of her outstanding service. Linfield College and the WCIC also made presentations to reward her years of devoted service. The Northwest Conference's all-sports trophy is named the Lewis-McIlroy award and is given annually to the top athletic program among the nine private small colleges in the Northwest.
The daughter of an army officer, McIlroy spent her formative years on Army bases primarily in Pennsylvania and the eastern U.S, where opportunities for women to play sports were rapidly growing. She earned her bachelor's degree at Wheaton College in Illinois, then enrolled in the Women's Army Corps where she spent three years as a public relations officer and helped organize the first women's basketball teams in the military.
She completed her master's degree in health and physical education at the University of Oregon in 1949 and accepted a position at Southern Idaho College of Education as a teacher and director of women's sports activities.
Two years later, she arrived at Linfield. When Kris Olsen was added to the staff as a second women's coach and professor, coaching the sport of field hockey became McIlroy's primary responsibility.
In 1961, McIlroy completed her doctorate degee in health, physical education and research at Indiana University, where she served briefly as graduate assistant and field hockey coach.