During her 29-year career as an Illinois High School Association administrator, Ola Bundy shepherded girls athletics from the early days of the Girls Athletic Association (GAA, a precursor to the IHSA adding girls’ sports) and postal tournaments to a full-scale, 12-sport, interscholastic state tournament lineup that was every bit the equivalent of boys programs. Today's female athlete owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Miss Bundy (see below or click here to see an interview with Ola), because many times it was only by the sheer force of her personality that she was able to persuade high school administrators to give girls athletics a fair shake. For her unceasing efforts she received many honors, capped by her induction into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Ola Bundy was born in Allerton, Illinois, and attended Champaign High School, where she graduated in 1953. In high school she was involved in various GAA activities, sang in the chorus, served as vice president of the senior class, and was editor of the school yearbook. At the University of Illinois she majored in physical education, and later did postgraduate work there and at Northern Illinois University.
After college, Ola spent eight years as a high school teacher at Grant Park High School, Thornton Fractional South, and her alma mater in Champaign. At each stop she was deeply involved in GAA activities, and during this period served several times as a counselor and director at GAA camps in northern Illinois.
In 1967, Ola joined the Illinois High School Association as an assistant executive director in charge of girls’ athletics. Ola soon found that she was a department unto herself, and in later years would recall that while the male administrators all had secretaries, she was expected to do her own typing and filing. So she did, with gusto, throwing all her efforts into running GAA programs and at the same time building the case for interscholastic competition for girls, which had been banned by the IHSA since 1907.
After Title IX was passed in 1972, the IHSA finally moved forward, establishing several state tournaments for girls, starting with tennis and track. Ola was in charge of them all until Cindy Adams Butkovich was hired in 1975 to share the load. By that time Ola had gotten her secretary, too.
From then until her retirement in 1996, Ola continued to provide uncompromising leadership for girls’ athletic programs in Illinois and across the nation. She wrote the IHSA's affirmative action policy for girls playing in boys state series. She helped write the Illinois State Board of Education's sex equity rules that served as the model for many other states. In 1993 she testified at a Congressional hearing on girls’ athletic participation.
Along the way, Ola received numerous awards from the many groups that benefited from her work. Among the highlights, in 1987 she was the first person inducted into the Illinois Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 1990 Ola received a special award from the Illinois State Board of Education for her contributions toward achieving sex equity in Illinois schools.
In 1996, on her last day as an IHSA employee, Ola was enshrined in the National High School Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at Tarpon Springs, Florida. It was a fitting tribute to a woman who had dedicated her life to fighting for equitable treatment for all students, boys and girls, who wished to participate in high school sports and activities.
Ola passed away in Normal on February 18, 2006, at the age of 70.