An emerita trustee of the College and recipient of the College’s highest honor, the College Medal, DeFrantz is well known for having captained the U.S. rowing team that won a bronze medal at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. Less well known is that the games served as her springboard into sports administration.
“The U.S. Olympic team did not have enough uniforms for the women’s rowing team,” she says. “I spent much of my time in the U.S. Olympic Committee offices demanding our uniforms.”
She impressed the USOC and was soon elected to its Athletes’ Advisory Council. By 1977, she was a member of the group’s executive board.
Her work at the USOC and her opposition to the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics brought her to the attention of the International Olympic Committee and, in 1986, she became the first woman and first African-American to represent the United States on the IOC. She was elected the group’s first female vice president in 1997 and remains an IOC member today, re-elected to a four-year term on the executive board last September.
Last fall, the 2010 inductee into the National Rowing Hall of Fame was formally recognized by the International Rowing Federation for a lifetime of distinguished service to the sport. That distinction came on the heels of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators presenting her with the organization’s Honor Award — for the second time.
The women administrators’ award recognizes individuals and entities that have exemplified outstanding support of women in athletics. Previous winners include sports journalists Christine Brennan and Robin Roberts, tennis great Billie Jean King, the Sara Lee Corporation and Nike — but none of them has won it twice. DeFrantz received the award for the first time in 1991.
DeFrantz currently serves as president of the LA84 Foundation, which was established to manage Southern California’s share of the budget surplus from the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The nonprofit invests in sports programs serving more than three million youth in eight Southern California counties.