WVU women's sports pioneer Martha Thorn dies at 83

Sean Manning, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.
·2 min read

Apr. 7—MORGANTOWN — Martha Thorn, one of the pioneers for women's sports at WVU, died Sunday. She was 83.

"We are deeply saddened to hear that Martha Thorn—the first coach of WVU women's tennis—has passed away at the age of 83, " WVU said in a statement. "Martha was one of the great pioneers of women's sports at West Virginia and her influence is still present today. We will miss her greatly."

Thorn earned her master's degree at WVU in 1963, and after coaching and teaching at the high school level for the latter part of the 1960s, returned to Morgantown as a faculty member at the university as director of intramural sports, and a graduate assistant for the School of Physical Education.

A native of Hinton, Thorn helped begin women's sports programs at WVU following the Title XI's enactment in 1972. Along with Kittie Blakemore—who passed away in July 2020—and Dr. Wincie Ann Carruth, Thorn assisted in beginning the women's gymnastics, basketball and tennis programs in 1973, and at the same time, was hired to head the tennis team.

On a limited budget of about $1, 000, Thorn handled tennis, and Blakemore coached basketball, beginning in 1972-73. Volleyball, swimming, track and field and softball started during the 1974-75 sports calendar.

For 27 years, Thorn led the Mountaineers to a 273-180-1 record before her retirement in November 2000. During her time as a coach, she was an assistant professor and lecturer.

Thorn is a 2006 inductee to the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences Hall of Fame. WVU also named the Martha Thorn Invitational in her honor, as was a team award given annually for a player who "best exemplified effort, dedication and consistency."

(This story will be updated)

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