J. Elaine Hieber was an invaluable and loyal administrator at Iowa State for 23 years (1979-2002), working vigorously for equity in women’s athletics and for the well-being of all student-athletes during her tenure.
A native of Ft. Thomas, Ky., Hieber received her bachelor’s (1969) and master’s (1971) degrees from Indiana University before becoming a teacher and coach at Indian Hill Exempted Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio.
She jumped to the college ranks in 1974, when she was hired at Miami (Ohio) University as assistant athletics director. Hieber established seven women’s varsity sports to compete at the AIAW Division I level and instituted the first grant-in-aid scholarships for female student-athletes at the school. In 1976, Hieber took over coaching duties for the tennis program and produced a 43-21 record, including three second-place showings in the Ohio College Women’s Tennis Tournament.
Hieber joined the Iowa State staff as an associate director of athletics in 1979. Her lifetime commitment to service, outreach and advocacy on behalf of ISU and intercollegiate athletics made an everlasting difference for women in the University community and beyond. Women’s athletics at ISU grew by leaps and bounds under Hieber’s leadership, as all sport teams increased their budget and participation while transitioning from the AIAW to the NCAA in 1982.
She was promoted to senior associate athletics director in 1993 and assumed responsibilities which included internal operations, student services, compliance, media relations and human resources.
Hieber received many honors and was a part of numerous national committees during her ISU tenure. She served as chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee for eight years, was a member of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee for six years and served on the NCAA Basketball Marketing Committee. She also was on the executive board of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and was a member of the Governor’s Council on Sport and Physical Fitness.
Perhaps Hieber’s most important legacy at ISU was the increased popularity of women’s athletics. The administrator was instrumental in the hiring of Bill Fennelly, who helped turn a dormant women’s basketball program into a national power. Under Hieber’s watch, women’s basketball attendance went from a few hundred spectators per game to rank among the best in the nation annually.
Hieber was promoted to interim athletics director in 2000, witnessing ISU’s first football bowl game appearance in 22 years. In 2001, Hieber was honored by the University with the Presidential Service Award that recognizes exemplary service by a faculty or staff member and was named the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) administrator of the year.
Hieber, who retired from ISU in 2002, continues to be an active member of the Ames community. She is a member of the executive committee of the Iowa Special Olympics and serves on the Ames Rotary Club board of directors. She was inducted into the Miami (Ohio) athletics hall of fame in 1999.