MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University Physical Education Professor and Athletics Director Emerita Marion Blackinton has been named the 2022 WIU Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal. WIU will celebrate Homecoming 2022 Friday-Saturday, Oct. 21-22, with the theme "90's Blockbuster: Rocky Brings the Good Times Home." The parade begins on the Macomb Square at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.
Named a WIU Honorary Alumna in Fall 2010, Blackinton served as an instructor, a coach and an administrator in the women's physical education department and in women's intercollegiate athletics for nearly two decades, beginning in 1967 when she came to Western as an associate professor of physical education. She earned full professor status in 1971. Blackinton also was director of the women's extramural program, which was a predecessor of structured intercollegiate competition.
Blackinton, who coached the volleyball team that won the state title in 1970, is among the pioneering women of the Title IX generation for sports (1970s-1980s). In 1974, women's athletics was granted departmental status at Western, and Blackinton was appointed the first women's intercollegiate athletics director, a position she held until her retirement in February 1986.
"As the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX was held in June 2022, it's more than fitting that we pay tribute and honor one of Western's pioneers of Title IX and women's rights," said Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Amy Spelman. "Marion, or Blackie as she's known to friends, is a Western icon, and we're thrilled to recognize her at this year's Homecoming celebration."
She was instrumental in securing WIU's charter membership (1971-1972) in the former Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW); in finding money for recruiting athletes; and in becoming a charter member in the 10-university all-women's Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference (July 1982), which also marked the women's first year of competition at the NCAA Division I level. Blackinton helped increase recognition for WIU women's athletics with a Summer 1977 nickname contest, which led to the name "Westerwinds," and a 32-year identity of their own. In Summer 2009 the University unified men's and women's athletics team names to the Leathernecks.
In March 2000, as part of the University's Centennial Celebration, Blackinton was among 45 women featured in the "Women of Western Centennial Photographic Exhibit," taken by regionally renowned black and white photographer Patti Sullivan–Howd of Macomb. Blackinton has received the Western Organization for Women (WOW) Achievement Award, and she was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACD) Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Western Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.
Blackinton also contributed to numerous departments and initiatives at Western, including WIUM, the Centennial Honors College, the President's Scholarship Fund and other scholarships. In addition, her support includes contributions to athletics by providing an electronic scoreboard for the Mary Ellen McKee Softball Stadium and a financial donation to renovate the Brophy Hall weight room for use by student-athletes and kinesiology students. The weight room was named in her honor in 2005.