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Elma Neal Roane
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Birth: Aug. 24, 1918
Death: Sep. 19, 2011

ELMA NEAL ROANE, 93, of Cordova, a recognized pioneer and foremost leader in physical education, sport in Tennessee, died peacefully at home on September 19, 2011.

This native Tennessean was born on August 24, 1918 in Memphis to Landon Boyd and Emmie Neal Roane.

She was preceded in death by her parents, sister, Virginia Anderson and husband, W. S. Anderson, Sr., brother, Landon B. Roane and wife, Doris Starr Roane, and nephew, Landon B. Roane, Jr. Sr. Elma was one of the founders and second president of the Tennessee College Women's Sports Federation, formed in 1969, to reinstitute intercollegiate athletic programs and competitions for women.

She was also the first recognized women's athletics director at Memphis State University (now The University of Memphis).

Ms. Roane's numerous achievements and contributions have distinguished her as a leader in education and in women's athletics. She was responsible for bringing equity and media attention to women's athletics at her alma mater when it wasn't considered fashionable and committed her career to seeing it through.

These are testaments to her athletics and leadership achievements. She was a graduate of Messick High School in 1936, she went on to West Tennessee State Teacher's College (Now The University of Memphis) to complete her bachelor's degree in 1940.

She had entered college with aspirations of continuing in athletics but to her surprise, the college eliminated intercollegiate athletics for women. It became her life long professional quest to reinstate athletic opportunities that she had enjoyed so that other talented and interested female students might have similar rewarding experiences.

For individual achievements and leadership in sports, several organizations inducted her into their hall of fames: Memphis Park Commission Hall of Fame; The University of Memphis, "M" Club Hall of Fame, first female inductee, 1980; and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Elma was one of the founders, first president, and served ten years as the leader of the popular Tennessee Golden Girls' Golf Group.

After graduating with a B.S. degree in 1940, Elma first taught at Treadwell High School, 1940. By this time, the city schools had eliminated varsity sports for girls but Elma got her chance to coach when the men coaches left for the service at the outbreak of World War II: she was asked to coach the junior high boys' basketball team and assist with the football team. Her boys won the district title in basketball.

Elma continued her education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville during her summers with the aid of a Public Health Scholarship and completed her M.S. in health and physical education in 1943.

After a six year career at Treadwell High School, president, Jack Smith of Memphis State College, suggested that she return to her alma mater, 1946. She achieved the rank of full professor in the HPER Department spending the lion's share of her career developing academic, intramural and sport programs for both men and women while chairing the Women's Division of the HPER Department.

In her 38 years at University of Memphis, she led by example and assumed each challenge with vigor, fortitude and enthusiasm. Her fervor for quality teacher training programs in physical education was not outmatched by her dedication to athletics.

Elma twice served as president of the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in the 50's during its formative years. She was officially appointed the Director of Women's Athletics in 1977, a position she held until retirement in 1984.

During her administrative tenure she oversaw the merger of men's and women's athletics into one department. This gifted teacher, administrator, and coach spearheaded three decades of growth in physical education, intramural and women's athletics.

As a result of her dedication and foresight, Elma has been honored with numerous awards and titles. Among the most notable are: the National Association of College Women Athletics Administrator, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005; the Greater Memphis State Educator of the Year Award, 1984; National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Recognition Award, 1987; the Honor Award for the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for outstanding service and leadership, 1959; Tennessee College Physical Association Honor Award, 1966; Honor Award for the Southern District of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for meritorious service, 1972; Elma N. Roane endowed academic HPER scholarship for females; the Elma N. Roane Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year Award; and in fitting tribute the athletic arena and professional physical education building located on The University of Memphis campus was named the Elma Neal Roane Fieldhouse in 1993.

In recognition of her contributions to education and sport, several groups and organizations bestowed their highest honors upon her including: 50 Women Who Make a Difference Award, the Memphis Women of Achievement Award for Vision, the Tennessee Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, Recognition Award for outstanding efforts for promoting opportunities for women, Joy of Effort Award, Physical Education Majors Club Award, Alpha XI Delta, National Honor Award, Outstanding Alumni and Order of the Rose, Delta Kappa Gamma, and Omicron Delta Kappa, NASPE, Projection Inspitation Award, The Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service, and the UM Society of the Shield.

She had been active in Buntyn Presbyterian Church as elder and has served as president of the Women of the Church.

She was a member of Bethany Christian Church, Eads, TN.

Gardening, fishing, golfing and traveling were her hobbies.

Peerless in her achievements and dedication, Elma Neal Roane personifies the meaning of women in education and sport, with a lifetime of carving a path for future female leaders.

She is survived by nephew, William S. Anderson, Jr. of Memphis; nieces, Gwendolyn Roane Cobb (Rick) of Rosswell, GA and Peggy Roane Gibson (Gibby) of Atlanta, GA, and great-nieces, Kimberly Falls, Robyn Cobb, Celia King, Jennifer Fluharty and nephew, Richard Cobb; her adopted family: Joe (deceased) and Jane Hooker, Dennis, Derrel, Jana, Carol (deceased), Brittany, Gabriel, Tucker, Buck, Jordan, Katie and Cage.

Visitation will take place Thursday, September 22 at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse from 4-7 p.m. Funeral services will be at Memorial Park Funeral Home at 1 p.m., Friday, September 23, with interment to follow in Memorial Park Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, Elma requested that memorials be sent to her beloved University of Memphis or Bethany Christian Church, 421 Bethany Rd., Eads, Tennessee.

Memorial Park Funeral Home, "Behind the stone wall", 901-767-8930. Condolences may be offered at

Published in The Commercial Appeal on September 21, 2011 
Memorial Park Cemetery
Shelby County
Tennessee, USA
Created by: Linda Wayman
Record added: Sep 21, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 76856211
Elma Neal Roane
Added by: Layne Sacharin
Elma Neal Roane
Added by: Layne Sacharin
Elma Neal Roane
Added by: Layne Sacharin
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