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  • Jack Bowerman

Baker University Sports Quiz #2

Who was the first woman elected to the Baker Athletic Hall of Fame?


Prudence Jane “Prudy” Boan was born June 17, 1947 in Red Oak, Iowa to Edward Burnett and Helen Maxine Nelson Boan one of ten children in the family. Prudy’s father worked for Skelly Oil and her family relocated to Fairway, Kansas in 1961. She attended Shawnee Mission North High School graduating in 1965 and was named the Teenage Athlete of the Year in the Kansas City area that same year.

Prudy received an athletic scholarship to attend Baker University. She began classes on the Baldwin City campus in the fall of 1965 and joined Phi Mu Sorority. She was active in campus activities and was Vice President of Phi Mu, President of the Women’s Athletic Association and a member of Student National Education Association. She earned athletic letters in volleyball, basketball, softball and participated in bowling, tennis, field hockey, archery and badminton intramural activities. In the late Sixties, Baker, along with most colleges and universities, had no intercollegiate sports programs for women, but athletic letters were awarded for excellence in intramural sports. All that began to change in the Seventies, but too late for Prudy to be recognized as an outstanding intercollegiate athlete. She was awarded the Baker Women Athlete of the Year in 1968. In 1969, she graduated from Baker with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education. She was married to another Baker student, junior Michael Wayne Pride, in June 1969. In 1981, she received her master’s degree in education from Central Missouri State University.

Prudy began her teaching career at Baldwin City High School in 1969 and received the Outstanding Young Educator Award from the Baldwin City School District in 1971. After two years in Baldwin City, she taught for two years at Hillcrest Junior High in Overland Park. She then spent the next thirty-two years as a teacher and coach at Shawnee Mission West High School. While teaching, she continued to excel as an athlete. From 1965 to 1977 she was active in Women’s Fast Pitch Softball and was voted “Most Valuable Player” in five tournaments. She participated in International Basketball competitions and was voted “Most Valuable Player” in the Kansas City Jayhawk Classic Tournament in 1974 and 1975. However, in 1977, her career as a premier athlete ended abruptly when she was diagnosed with MS. She continued as head girls’ volleyball and softball coach at SM West, often from a wheelchair, and was an assistant basketball coach. She took her teams to state numerous times and motivated and inspired her young athletes as she battled her disease.

Prudy was also an inspiration for many others. In 1985, she was awarded the Professional Disabled Woman of the Year for Overland Park. In 1987, she was nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Award for the Greater Kansas City area and received the National Volleyball Coaching Award by Scholastic Coach Magazine. She received the Inspiration Award by the National Association for Sports and Recreation in 1988 and the Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Award, Kansas City area in 1989. In 1990, she received the Region V MS achievement Award and was a National Finalist for MS Achievement Award.

Prudy was nominated by Carol Famer (class of 1969) and Cecil Miller (Class of 1953) to be considered for induction in the Baker University Athletic Hall of Fame and in 1986, she became the first woman to enter the Hall. The plaque in the Hall reads “Prudence J. Boan who has brought honor to Baker University through her own athletic achievements, and her outstanding record while coaching and as an educator.” Prudy retired from teaching in 2005 and finally lost her battle with MS and died on June 24, 2007.

The Kansas City Star interviewed Prudy’s sister, Nancy, and her mother, Helen, after her death. Some excerpts from that interview:

“A natural athlete: Prudy Boan’s life was defined by her competitive spirit. “She was a natural athlete way before it was acceptable for women to be athletes,” said her sister, Nancy Houlehan. Athletic prowess was a Boan family trait. Boan and her sisters were reared to lead active lives and were often on the playing field together. “All of us sisters played on a lot of her teams,” Houlehan said. “Sometimes we’d be on the softball field, and it’d be all Boan girls in the infield.” Edward Boan, Boan’s father, was their guiding influence. He encouraged his daughters to spend time outdoors and taught them the fundamentals for success. “The Boan family has always been involved in athletics,” said their mother, Helen Boan. “He was always a very good coach and teacher.” Throughout her life, Boan piled up accolades at every level. She won the teenage athlete of the year award for the Kansas City area in 1965 as a senior at Shawnee Mission North High School. At Baker University, she lettered in volleyball, basketball and softball and was the first woman inducted into Baker’s hall of fame. “It was in her blood to play the game,” Houlehan said. “You could give her a football or bowling ball, and she’d probably be pretty good at it.”

Longtime coach and teacher: Boan took the leadership she learned in athletics to the classroom. After graduating from Baker in 1969, she went on to teach health and physical education, spending 32 of her 36-year teaching career at Shawnee Mission West High School. “She always wanted to be in education,” her mother said. “She always liked being around the kids, and she was a very good coach.” Aside from classroom teaching, Boan was head coach of the girls’ volleyball and softball teams and helped with the basketball team. Later, her enthusiasm for teaching and coaching also surmounted being confined to a wheelchair. “You could always feel that she wanted to be on the field herself,” Houlehan said. “She knew right away if someone had it or not, but she was patient to work with others to draw out their best.” Her mother said: “She was really a wonderful person, and she was so good for all these girls. They all looked up to her.” Boan’s training and experience as an athlete also helped her excel in the classroom. “I think early in life she was always organizing us,” Houlehan said. “I think that leadership made her feel she could be an authority figure, and she was always coaching us every time we went out to play. Every teacher needs to be a leader in the classroom.”

Getting the most out of life: For the last 32 years of her life, Boan battled multiple sclerosis. Even though she lost the use of her legs, Boan was able to maintain her independence and continue teaching and coaching. “She was just determined to fight it like a wildcat,” Houlehan said. “She was never happy to have it, but she fought it with all her might. It was her determination and a can-do attitude that sustained her through all of it.” Her mother said: “She even drove with automatic hand controls in her car. She had a special van, but she still taught. It wasn’t until after she retired in 2005 that someone had to help her.” Survivors include: Her mother and nine siblings, 24 nieces and nephews, and many other relatives and friends.

Last words: “She was only 5 (feet) 2 (inches tall), but she could shoot your eyes out” on the basketball court, Houlehan said. “And even near the end, though, she never became bitter. She just kept fighting with all of her might. That’s all she knew how to do.”

Prudy exemplified Baker Spirit throughout her life.

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