SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A long-time champion for social change and equality and sports icon Billie Jean King will deliver the 2022 Springfield College Commencement Address at the 136th Springfield College Commencement Exercises in May. The ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 15, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield. Springfield College President Dr. Mary-Beth Cooper recently made the announcement to the College community.
“Welcoming Billie Jean King to Springfield College to address our graduates speaks volumes to the commitment Springfield College has made to equity, inclusion, diversity, and to advancing opportunities for girls and women in sport,” said Dr. Mary-Beth Cooper, Springfield College president. “In honoring a pioneer, an advocate, an athlete, and a visionary, we also honor the incredible women and men who have made a difference through education and sport. There is no finer choice to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. Billie Jean King represents the best of all that Springfield College values, especially leadership in service to others.”
King’s appearance kicks off a year-long celebration at Springfield College of 50 Years of Title IX. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the landmark federal law signed in 1972 that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
Named one of the “100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century” by Life magazine, Billie Jean King is the founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation and part of the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Angel City FC and the Philadelphia Freedoms.
King created new inroads for all genders in sports and beyond during her legendary career and she continues to make her mark today. She is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — in 2009. In her legendary tennis career, she ranked as the top female tennis player in the world.
King captured 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles, including a record 20 Wimbledon championships. Her historic win over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes, is one of the greatest moments in sports history.
In September 2020, King became the first woman to have an annual global team sports event named in her honor when Fed Cup, the women’s world cup of tennis, was rebranded as the Billie Jean King Cup. The National Tennis Center, home of the US Open, was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006 in honor of her accomplishments on and off the court.
In 2017, Fox Searchlight released the critically acclaimed film, Battle of the Sexes, which depicts the cultural and social impact of the groundbreaking match. King received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 as part of the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards. In 2019, King’s deep Southern California roots were recognized with the opening of the Billie Jean King Main Library in her hometown of Long Beach, California. King was honored in 2010 with the release of the Billie Jean King Barbie doll, part of Mattel’s Inspiring Women Series. In 2021, she received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award and the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
King serves on the board of the Women’s Sports Foundation, is an adidas Global Ambassador and is a past member of the board of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a past member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Her memoir, ALL IN: An Autobiography, was published by Knopf in August 2021.
Springfield College is an independent, nonprofit, coeducational institution founded in 1885. Approximately 4,100 students, including 2,500 full-time undergraduate students, study at its main campus in Springfield, Mass., and at its regional campuses across the country. Springfield College inspires students through the guiding principles of its Humanics philosophy – educating in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to others.