Gertrude Peoples, a special assistant with the University of Washington football program and the former director of the UW’s Student-Athlete Academic Services, is the 2012 recipient of the UW Charles E. Odegaard Award.
The award will be presented at the 42nd annual EOP Celebration, Fête and Honors hosted by UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMA&D) and the Friends of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) on Thursday, May 10, at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. The dinner and scholarship fundraiser will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Established in 1973, the Odegaard award honors individuals whose leadership in the community exemplifies the former UW president’s work on behalf of diversity. It is the only University and community-selected award, and is regarded as the highest achievement in diversity at the UW.
“Gertrude has impacted the lives of thousands of UW student-athletes,” Edwards Lange said. “We are indebted to her for the leadership, knowledge, and caring she brings to the University. For over 40 years, she has contributed to the success of our students and continues to do so today. Her commitment to connecting students of color with the UW community, as well as her loyal service as a mentor and advisor reflect the goals of OMA&D and EOP.”
Peoples began her career at UW in 1969 after being hired by Dr. Samuel E. Kelly, UW’s first vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs, to be an academic counselor with EOP. Her unique talent to connect with students and other UW departments during a time of social unrest led to her becoming an academic advisor to UW student-athletes in 1970.
Peoples was charged with the task of helping ease racial tensions that were occurring in the athletic department at that time. Not only did she successfully lead the integration of African-American football players into the campus community, she enhanced the level of academic support received by student-athletes of all ethnicities and genders. Peoples started the country’s first academic support office for college student athletes, setting the standard for similar programs across the nation.
By 1973, she was accompanying the football coaching staff on home recruiting visits as the first female recruiter for athletics at a major university. She was featured in both Ebony Magazine and Sports Illustrated during that time. Her success as a recruiter led other schools to call on the NCAA to alter the rules, limiting home visits to coaches. Peoples has worn several “hats” during her time in athletics, also working as a liaison between coaches and athletes, as well as families and upper campus.
She has been a mentor to countless student-athletes including Husky football legends Warren Moon, Mario Bailey, Spider Gaines, and Greg Lewis. Two athletic department awards have been named in her honor. The Gertrude Peoples Scholarship Award is presented to a senior student-athlete pursuing a graduate degree, while the Gertrude Peoples Award is given to a UW coach who goes above and beyond expectations in helping their student-athletes with academics.
Currently in semi-retirement, Peoples recently battled breast cancer after being diagnosed last May. A devoted mother and grandmother, she has driven her grandchildren to and from school for the last 18 years. Peoples also competes in bridge tournament across the country and is an avid reader.
Learn more about the Odegaard Award and Celebration 2012.
Photo by Ron Wurzer