In 1958 Blanche Donovan took a job as a short-term substitute teacher at Glendale Junior College and did not leave for the next 34 years. In that time frame as a teacher, division chair for the women’s physical education department and as head coach of the coed volleyball team, she helped bring forth many of the classes and programs that still exist today.
But describing Blanche in just those terms of years of service would not come close to what she meant to the college and the students she worked with until she retired in 1992. Starting in the late 1950’s, women were struggling to find a foothold in schools across the country in a male dominated landscape where their participation was frowned upon in anything other than basic physical education classes.
“Teaching physical education classes in those days was a challenge because facilities were a problem because we had to share one gym and had just a few fields to work with for both men and women,’’ she said. “But what I remember fondly is not the struggle but the joy of working with students who didn’t mind playing field hockey in the old corral above the cafeteria or doing whatever we had to do to make it work.’’
One other challenge that Blanche met and conquered during her time at the college was coaching the co-ed volleyball team for several years in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. She had little coaching experience but spent countless hours teaching herself what she needed to know, and attended many clinics to learn the rest. The team was a success not only because they won Southern California titles in various divisions, but also because they melded men and women competing together.
“Blanche was a role model for me during the time we worked together at the college,” said women’s athletic director Terry Coblentz. “She was a quiet leader but very solid in her decision making which was critical in her role as the division chair for 10 years. I consider her a very dear friend after all these years.’’
Now retired for almost 15 years and living near the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, Blanche spends a great deal of her time volunteering for various charity groups and enjoying the beautiful scenery where every day is another day in paradise.
But back on the mainland, the contributions that Blanche Donovan made to the women’s physical education department at Glendale College will never be forgotten.