Family and friends of former Kansas University professor Joie Stapleton, 93, recalled her innovations and openness.
She died Friday, Dec. 15, 2000, at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor. Services are pending.
"As a teacher, she was way ahead of the times in that she was inclusive of everyone and trying to meet the needs of students, no matter the disability," her niece Becky Sandhaus said.
Stapleton spent much of her life in Lawrence, and was a member of Liberty Memorial High School's first graduating class in 1924. She earned her undergraduate degree at Kansas University before earning master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University in New York.
Recruited by Phog Allen, she returned to Lawrence to teach at KU in 1939, eventually becoming the chair of the women's physical education department in 1952. The next year, after struggling with volleyball nets in classes, she received a patent from the U.S. Patent Office for a device to hang nets and keep them at the proper height.
One of her accomplishments was the creation of playgrounds at the city's elementary schools. She also created a partnership between the university and the Lawrence public schools to allow physical education students to use the playgrounds as laboratories.
Sandhaus said her aunt's humor and insight endeared her to her nieces and nephews.
"She was very progressive. Her nieces and nephews were all very happy, because she was a Democrat in a family that didn't have too many," Sandhaus said. "She was outthinking those of us quite a bit younger. She kept up with the times."
KU recreation facility director Bob Lockwood first worked with Stapleton as a young faculty member in the early 1960s.
"She was one of my teachers. To the end, she had a great sense of humor," he said. "She always carried that through her teaching career. She could remember every student she ever had. She was a fairly good athlete back in the days when women weren't allowed to compete that much."
In 1972, when Title IX revolutionized women's athletics, Lockwood said Stapleton took the changes in stride.
"She relinquished the chair of the women's department, and she continued on as a professor," he said. "She was a pretty advanced thinker in terms of athletics and teaching styles."
Later that year she retired from KU, after serving 33 years. In October 1999, she was inducted into the Lawrence High School Hall of Fame for her accomplishments and service to the city.