For The Tribune
Donna Sullivan has received special awards and honors from numerous organizations during her career as a college athlete, high school coach and administrator.
However, she said the Leanne L. Grotke Awards she received at the Virgil T. Devault Alumni Center at Indiana University on Friday night will be front and center on her trophy case at home.
“It just means so much because it is the Grotke Award,” Sullivan said. “Coach Grotke was my role model here, and my idol, and I’m just so glad that I was picked to win the award. It’s a great night. I’m glad to have a lot of family and friends here tonight to celebrate it with me.”
Ann Bastianelli, past chairwoman of the IU-Women’s Association, introduced Sullivan and said, “Her dedication to Indiana University is unquestioned. It’s probably unparalleled, and it has lasted more than three decades.”
Sullivan said, “One thing I know for certain, coach Grotke started my love affair with sports. She was my teacher, she was my coach, athletics director and role model.”
Grotke, who currently resides in Florida, was unable to attend the program.
Sullivan said she spoke with Grotke on the telephone earlier last week.
“We tried to make up for 40-plus years,” Sullivan said. “I had the opportunity to personally thank her for giving me the opportunity to compete, for the first time in my life, and provide the groundwork for everything that’s come in my life.
“Without her guidance I wouldn’t be here tonight.”
Sullivan graduated from Orleans High School in 1966, but did not compete in sports there because girls were not allowed to play on the boys’ teams.
“It was not until 1966, when Donna enrolled at IU, that she got the opportunity to play, and she lettered in club volleyball, softball and field hockey, and was named a member of the women’s recreation board,” Bastianelli said.
Sullivan played volleyball for four years, softball two years, and field hockey one year.
Sullivan played goalie for the field hockey team, and they had a record of 12-0-1, with the tie coming against Purdue.
Following graduation from IU, Sullivan began her coaching and teaching career at Seymour High School.
She coached girls basketball for 31 years, volleyball for 22 years, and girls track and field for nine years.
She was also assistant athletics director for 29 years.
Sullivan coached Seymour basketball and volleyball teams to the state finals.
Among those in attendance was Teri Moren, current IU women’s basketball coach, who played on basketball and volleyball teams that advanced to state.
“I’m very proud of the woman you have become,” Sullivan said of Moren. “I hope that I was able to give during my time at Seymour, some of those same lessons, dreams and experiences that Coach Grotke gave me some 50 years ago.
“My journey began when I was fortunate enough to attend Indiana University. Athletics have given me much more than I deserve. I feel humbled and blessed by this award.”
Sullivan said she was on the first club volleyball team at IU, and she said there were 15 women on the team. She served as captain senior year.
“We put our own nets up, we took our own nets down, and it was a chance for us to compete,” she said.
Sullivan started out as a nursing major at IU, but it was because of Grotke that she switched her majors to physical education and health.
“My sophomore year I changed to physical education and health.” Bastianelli said, “She eventually formed and led Seymour’s first girls athletics department. Over the next 30 years Donna’s distinguished career included a number of awards and honors. She received the National Federation of High School Robert F. Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001.”
Sullivan was in the inaugural class of women inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.
Sullivan said she learned her basketball from Lloyd E. (Barney) Scott, a former Seymour boys coach.
She retired from SHS in 2003 and since she has organized mission trips to Dominican Republic and Africa, and is past president of the Jackson County Retired Teachers Association.
Also receiving a Grotke Award on the night was Diane Stephenson.
She played softball at IU and was a member of the 1980 team that was national runner ups.
Stephenson was a former softball coach at IU and is currently the softball coach at St. Joseph’s College.
Jeffrey Huber and Mary Jo Philhower received honorary awards.