Joan Cronan

Joan Cronan

Inspiring Message

Tuesday, May 15 – Opening Session
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Joan Cronan offers a refreshing and innovative perspective on strengthening performance and achieving success in work and everyday life. During her 28 years as Women’s Athletic Director for the University of Tennessee, she built one of the most prominent and respected women’s athletic programs in the nation, which resulted in ten NCAA titles and 24 SEC Tournament Championships for the Lady Vols. Cronan’s lighthearted stories and succinct business tips will draw you in until you feel like you are present for every victory she describes on the court and in the workplace. Her passionate approach to positive change will arm you with the outlook and tools you need to revolutionize the professional and personal spheres in your life.


Joan Cronan served as the women’s athletics director at the University of Tennessee for 29 years until 2012. During her tenure, Tennessee expanded women’s varsity sports from seven to 11, and annual giving to support women’s athletics increased to $2 million per year. Cronan prioritized academics with student-athletes, leading an initiative that stressed class attendance and engagement. As a result, female student-athletes earned an average 93 percent Graduation Success Rate during Cronan’s tenure. Cronan also started a community service component that emphasized civic responsibility as part of an athletics experience at the university. She is now the women’s athletics director emeritus at Tennessee.

Cronan earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University. She is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, LSU Alumni Hall of Distinction, The College of Charleston Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. In addition, Cronan was named the first recipient of the NCAA Pat Summitt award in 2016; NACWAA Lifetime Achievement Award, YWCA Lifetime Achievement award and the Boys & Girls Club Gift of Hope. In addition to having a street by the name of Joan Cronan Way, the Joan Cronan Volleyball Center at the University of Tennessee is named in her honor.

This coming June Cronan will be inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors (NACDA) Hall of Fame. At that time she will also be presented with The James J. Corbett Memorial Award which is given annually by the NACDA “to the collegiate administrator who through the years has most typified Corbett’s devotion to intercollegiate athletics and worked unceasingly for its betterment.” The award is named after former Louisiana State University athletics director and first president of the NACDA, James J. Corbett. It has been presented annually since 1967.

Cronan’s late husband Tom served as a professor of Exercise Physiology at Carson-Newman College for almost 20 years. During his distinguished career, he received the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD) Honor Award for Excellence and Service in the Professions of Health and Physical Education as well as the Life Fellow Award, the highest of all state awards.

Cronan is currently working with the Tennessee Legislature to pass the Tom Cronan Physical Education Act, which would require physical education programs in K-12 schools across the state.

She has two daughters, Kristi Benner and Stacey Bristow, three grandsons, Chase and Reed Bristow, and Quinn Benner, and granddaughters Reese Benner and Larkin Bristow.