Marlene Mawson is known as the “Mother of KU Women’s Athletics.” She became an instructor in the Women’s Physical Education Department in 1968 and shortly after that was appointed director of Women’s Athletics at KU. Mawson was the first to develop a serious program of intercollegiate athletics while teaching a full class load and coaching multiple sports. As a coach, her basketball team qualified for the second National Championship and her volleyball team won back-to-back AIAW Region 6 championships in 1973-1974 and 1974-1975.
Mawson left KU in 1990 for Illinois State University, where she retired in 2000. She is the namesake for the Marlene Mawson Female Athlete of the Year Award and the Mawson Scholar Speaker Series in the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Science at KU. In 2009, Marlene Mawson was inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame for her contributions to women’s athletics.