Virginia Manker never set out to become a pioneer but the efforts she made to involve young women in athletics at Glendale Junior College in the 1960s and 1970s can never be emphasized enough.
Manker joined the staff at Glendale in 1965 as a teacher and coach in the women’s physical education department after earning her bachelor's degree in physical education at the University of Arizona and her Master’s Degree in Education from Oregon State University. She taught coed classes in badminton, swimming, tennis and volleyball and coached women in basketball, volleyball, softball and tennis.
At the time there were no organized leagues or conferences for competition and in order to generate competition for women with other schools, coaches would get on the phone and schedule games. In those formative years, many meetings were held among the women coaches in junior colleges in an attempt to form leagues for organized competition. The result was the formation of the Southern California Junior College Women’s Athletic conferences.
After Manker took over as women’s athletic director, the committee on athletics of the California Community Colleges eliminated all coed sports teams and the remaining women’s sports teams were included in the existing men’s athletic conferences. The California Community College’s Men and Women’s Athletic Directors held joint conference meetings to plan team schedules just as they do today.
It is important to note that even though none of the teams that Manker coached won a championship, the athletes benefited from a high level of competition, sportsmanship and character building.
Dr. Cathy Ferguson, a two-time gold medalist in swimming at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo played basketball under Manker at Glendale and said about her former coach, “With my background as a swimmer, to even be able to play a sport like basketball at Glendale shows that Virgina Manker was concerned with the whole person she was working with, not just the student or the athlete. She had a lot to do with my focusing on a career as a physical education teacher and I can’t say enough about what she meant to me and my career.”
In 1982, Manker took a leave of absence from Glendale to be with her new husband, Don Pierce, in Canada and her life took on a new phase that consisted of such activities as cross country skiing, ice fishing and living in a remote cabin on a wilderness island from the tennis courts and college activities she had known during her time at Glendale College.
That same year, Manker decided to take early retirement rather than return to teaching and coaching at Glendale. She and her husband moved back to California in 1991 to Encinitas, near San Diego, where she enjoys walking on the beach and golfing in the winter and returning to Canada for summer vacations.