From the moment she joined the staff of Carleton College in Northfield in 1962, Pat Lamb was a pioneer and leader in women’s sports, particularly tennis.
Lamb arrived at Carleton after completing a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. Over the next 32 years, she was a groundbreaking coach, professor and athletic director.
Perhaps the highlight of her career came in 1991, when, as a women’s tennis coach and administrator, she was inducted into the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Northern Hall of Fame. Her presenter was, fittingly, another tennis pioneer — Billie Jean King.
Lamb died Jan. 28 in Northfield after a long battle with cancer. She was 83.
“Coach Pat Lamb always gave 100 percent of herself to everything she did,” King wrote in a tweet. “She was a pioneer and a game-changer for women’s athletics, an exemplary coach, and a loyal friend. We will miss her.”
Lamb started her career at Carleton as an instructor in the women’s physical education department. In 1970, she became the school’s first athletic director for women. Over the next 15 years, she oversaw the development of 12 varsity athletic programs for women.
In the two decades she served as the women’s tennis coach, her teams won 11 conference championships. When she retired from coaching in 1987, she was named the NCAA Division III women’s National Coach of the Year.
She also served in leadership positions in several organizations including the USTA, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport and the NCAA.
A statement from the Carleton athletic department said, “[Pat] Lamb spent her life in service to Carleton and its students. She is recognized as an early champion for women’s physical education and was an influential leader in the development of increased sport opportunities for women, not only at Carleton, but also at the state, regional and national levels.
“Because of her advocacy, and that of her life partner, Eleanor Hansen, Carleton became an early model for providing wide-ranging physical education instruction, classes and resources for women,” it continued.
Lamb was born in Minneapolis. She graduated from Minneapolis Central High School and the University of Minnesota, then taught physical education at several schools in California before returning to Minnesota to pursue her advanced degree.
After retiring from Carleton, she continued to support women’s athletics there. The Pat Lamb Award was given annually to two Carleton senior female scholar-athletes.
“Pat was a huge mentor to me as a coach and administrator, even though I came to Carleton after her retirement,” said Carleton volleyball coach and senior women’s administrator Heidi Jaynes. “Even though she retired over 20 years ago, she still influenced our current female student-athletes and coaches by stopping by practices, cheering us on in the bleachers at games, and taking our female senior athletic award-winners out to lunch every year, so that she could get to know them and hear about their experience at Carleton.”
In addition to the USTA Northern Hall of Fame, Lamb was a member of the Carleton “C” Club Hall of Fame. She also received the University of Minnesota’s Eloise M. Jaeger Physical Education Award.
Lamb’s longtime partner, Hansen, died in 2013. Lamb is survived by a brother, Charles Lamb, and many nieces and nephews. A public memorial service will be held on June 15 at the Skinner Memorial Chapel on the Carleton campus.