Mon, Apr 26 2010
After 17 years serving in many capacities at LeTourneau University, former head women's basketball coach and senior women's administrator Mary Ann Otwell announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2009-10 school year. The School of Education and the Athletics Department will host a reception to honor Otwell at 2 p.m., Thursday, April 29 at the Steudler Lounge in the Solheim Recreation and Activity Center.
“Mary Ann brought excellence to LeTourneau athletics with her championship teams,” LeTourneau University President Dr. Dale Lunsford said. “She prepared many student-athletes to excel in both competition and in character. I thank God for her years here.”
Otwell came to LeTourneau in the fall of 1993 where she reinitiated the women’s basketball program in the fall of 1994. During her career at LeTourneau, two of her teams won the National Christian College Championships and produced five All-Americans. She was also named NCCAA Coach of the Year twice.
“At the time we did not have a women’s basketball program, but we were wanting to expand our athletic offerings and women’s basketball was at the top of our list,” former LeTourneau University President Dr. Alvin “Bud” Austin said. “Mary Ann Otwell actually came to us and said I think I would like to become involved with an institution like LeTourneau with its commitments to spiritual principles and academic quality. We knew of her reputation as a coach of winning programs, even on the national level, and so we jumped at the opportunity. Initially she just taught classes, but then began to put together the women’s program and had very quick success. Mary Ann Otwell has provided outstanding leadership to our athletic endeavors and has served as a role model to all students, especially the women of LeTourneau.”
Otwell graduated from Waldo High School in Waldo, Ark., in 1960 and went on to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., where she played basketball for head coach Carolyn Moffit and also played tennis. On the hardwood, Otwell led the Tigerette basketball team to an AAU State championship in 1961 and 1962 and was the team’s leading scorer and an All-State selections both years.
After the 1962 season, she was selected to the National Women’s Basketball League All-Star team. On the tennis court, Otwell was a runner-up in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference singles championship as a freshman and followed that with three straight AIC singles titles. She was an AIC champion in doubles all four years. She graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree and completed her Masters of Science in Education at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1969.
Her coaching career began in 1964 at Richland High School in Essex, Mo., and returned to her alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, in 1969 to coach volleyball and tennis, and also taught in the kinesiology department. She moved south to Stephens High School where she won the State Championship and the Overall State Championship of all Divisions. Otwell’s journey then continued to head south and east on the map to East Texas.
Otwell became the girls high school coach at Elysian Fields High School and was there for two years. She was then invited to begin the women’s basketball program at Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas. Otwell guided the school to a pair of National Junior College Championships and was twice named the National Junior College Coach of the Year and Texas Sportswriters Coach of the Year. She coached four All-Americans while at Panola.
After four great years at Panola, Otwell moved on to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, to become the assistant women’s basketball coach for two years, and then the head coach the next four. One of her biggest thrills came while coaching at Stephen F. Austin as she handed Tennessee head coach Pat Summit a loss. Otwell had NCAA Division I playoff appearances every year.
Prior to coming to LeTourneau, Otwell spent nine years before returning to the coaching sidelines in a private business. She began the LeTourneau program in 1993 and retired from coaching in the spring of 2001 with a 130-73 record. In her historic career, Otwell never had a losing season and amassed a 292-142 record.
Her services as a collegiate coach may have ended in 2001, but Otwell remained at LeTourneau and served as the assistant athletic director, senior woman administrator, NCAA compliance officer, advisor to the National Student Athletic Advisory Council and works to grow and develop the YellowJacket athletic club.
Otwell, who loves to golf, play the piano and spend time with family and friends, is a member of four halls of fame: Ouachita Baptist University Athletic Hall of Fame, National Junior College Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Panola Junior College Hall of Fame and LeTourneau University Hall of Fame.
“Coach Otwell has contributed her national championship talent to LeTourneau University for more than a decade and a half,” said Dr. William McDowell, LeTourneau’s Executive Vice President for Business and Administration. “She will be missed. It is our desire to thank her and to wish her God’s very best in her retirement.”