Val Ackerman: 2017

From being a dominant player on the basketball court at the University of Virginia to serving as Commissioner of the Big East Conference, Val Ackerman has risen to the pinnacle at every level of sports. A natural leader who exemplifies the perfect balance of business savvy and sports innovation, Ackerman remains a steadfast champion for women’s sports.

At the University of Virginia, she was one of the school’s first female athletes to receive an athletic scholarship, five years after the passage of Title IX. She was a starter for the Cavaliers’ basketball team for four years, captain for three, and was twice named Academic All-American. She was also the school’s first women’s basketball player to score 1,000 points.

Ackerman earned a law degree from UCLA and served as special assistant to National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner David Stern. She later became Vice-President of Business Affairs for the NBA. She was named the first President of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1996. She served as president of USA Basketball from 2005-08 and spent eight years as the U.S. representative to the International Basketball Federation.

Today, Ackerman leads the Big East Conference as Commissioner of ten universities. Leveraging her well-honed business acumen, she has repositioned a once in-flux organization into a national powerhouse.

In 2016, she was presented with the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Billie Jean King Contribution Award. Her legacy of work in sports, business and academia has fostered and empowered women and girls to pursue sports, not just as players on the field, but also as leaders in business and beyond.

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