When Title IX was passed in 1972, opening doors for women in unprecedented ways, Jan Boxill already had a college degree under her belt.
Although she never benefited from the law, sports have shaped much of her life.
She grew up playing football with her 11 siblings, five of whom were boys. It was a welcome respite from the hardship of living on an upstate New York farm with no indoor plumbing and no adults to shepherd the large brood. Boxill’s mother died when she was just 3, and her father, when she was 12.
Sports served as the family glue. “We played everything,” she says. “It was the one thing that allowed us to be partners … and we played hard.”
In high school, she wanted to play sports, but girls were not allowed to participate.
At 18, she joined the military and played saxophone, another passion, in the Women’s Air Force Band. She then attended junior college and used the GI Bill to help foot the cost of attending UCLA. There she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and her master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy. She also helped form the inaugural women’s basketball team. She’d wanted to play in the marching band, but, once again, women were not allowed.
Hearing no so many times fueled Boxill’s passion for social justice in matters affecting minorities as well as women.
At Carolina, where she is senior lecturer in philosophy and director of the Parr Center for Ethics, she writes and teaches about ethics, social and political philosophy, ethics in sports and feminist theory.
Never too far from the action of the game, Boxill spent 20 years as the public address announcer for Carolina women’s basketball, and she still serves as the public address announcer for women’s field hockey and as radio color analyst for women’s basketball.
She learned at a young age the importance of taking advantage of opportunities that come along – even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone.
It’s something she tries to instill in the students she teaches and advises. And after 25 years here, with a host of leadership posts as well as teaching and mentoring awards to her name, that mantra led to her newest position as Carolina’s faculty chair.
“This is definitely a new challenge,” she admits. Boxill sees herself as the faculty’s advocate, “but it’s advocacy with reason.” Realistically, she knows she can’t do everything people – including herself – might like. She is more of a mediator.
“I’ll be honest. I’m not aggressive,” she says. “Well, only on the court.”