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Jackie Joyner-Kersee named 2019 Ford Award recipient

Olympian, philanthropist to be recognized at NCAA Convention

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the 2019 recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award, which honors an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for college sports.

Joyner-Kersee, a former women’s basketball and track star at UCLA, went on to become a three-time Olympic gold medalist, world record holder and four-time world champion in track and field. After a successful career as a professional athlete, she now works as a philanthropist and motivational speaker and has published two books: “A Kind of Grace” and “A Woman’s Place Is Everywhere.”

“Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the most accomplished female athletes in U.S. history, but her legacy extends far beyond what she achieved on the basketball court and track,” said NCAA president Mark Emmert. “Through her ongoing work to support a variety of causes – including education and youth programs – she leads by example and strives to provide opportunities through sport for generations to come.”

At UCLA, Joyner-Kersee competed in women’s basketball and track and field. In track, she set two collegiate records, won two NCAA national championships in the heptathlon and earned multiple All-America honors. In 1985, she was awarded the Broderick Cup, presented to the country’s most outstanding female collegiate athlete. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1986.

She went on to become one of the most decorated female athletes in history. The four-time Olympian won one gold medal and two bronze medals in the long jump, and two gold medals and one silver medal in the heptathlon. She is the current world record holder in the women’s heptathlon, with a score of 7,291 points. She also won 13 indoor and outdoor national titles in long jump, eight national titles in the heptathlon, one in the 100-meter hurdles and one in the 60 hurdles. Joyner-Kersee still holds the current U.S. records in the outdoor long jump and indoor 50 hurdles and 55 hurdles.

In 1988, she created the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which focuses on providing resources for youth, adults and families to improve their quality in life, with a special focus on East St. Louis, Illinois (her birthplace). By 2000, the foundation raised more than $12 million for the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, which serves as a youth recreation and sports venue in East St. Louis and as home to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club. The center offers programming in community development; youth education and career development; health and life skills; arts; and recreational programs. It also serves as the home for the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Gold Medal Scholarship program.

In addition to her work with her foundation, Joyner-Kersee partnered with The Christian Activity Center and Intel Corp. to open computer clubhouses in East St. Louis. In 2011, she also partnered with Comcast to create the Internet Essentials program, which offers laptops and internet service at a reduced rate for low-income families. Since its inception, the program has provided internet access to 6 million Americans.

Joyner-Kersee also was a founding member of Athletes for Hope, which provides direction to professional athletes to get involved in charitable causes while inspiring millions of nonathletes to volunteer and support their communities.

Joyner-Kersee will receive the award and speak at the NCAA’s Association Luncheon on Jan. 25 at the 2019 NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Named in recognition of Gerald Ford, the 38th U.S. president and a member of two University of Michigan national championship football teams, the award was established in 2004 by the late NCAA President Myles Brand. It was first awarded to the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame. Last year’s recipient was “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts.