Debbie Yow-Bowden ’74 awarded the Elon Medallion

The honor for Yow-Bowden, a visionary basketball coach, administrator and director of athletics, was announced at the 2021 Night of the Phoenix on Friday, Oct. 22, in Schar Center.

Trustee Debbie Yow-Bowden ’74, one of the most respected figures in collegiate athletics, has been awarded the Elon Medallion, the university’s highest honor, in recognition of her service to the university and impact on countless lives during her distinguished career.

President Connie Ledoux Book and Board of Trustees Chair Ed Moriarty presented Yow-Bowden with the bronze medallion and read the accompanying framed citation in Schar Center on Friday, Oct. 22, during the Night of the Phoenix, the largest annual fundraising event for Elon Athletics.

The Elon Medallion is the most prestigious service award given by the university and is awarded, at the discretion of the president, to members of the Elon community who have rendered loyal and meritorious service to the university at the highest levels.

Debbie Yow-Bowden offering remarks during the Night of the Phoenix.

Book told the crowd that Yow-Bowden “has been a consistent and stalwart champion for Elon University, providing remarkable leadership, guidance, and financial support to advance the university’s mission, while at the same time influencing the lives of legions of student-athletes and athletic administrators through her professional leadership as a coach and athletic administrator.”

A trailblazer, visionary leader and passionate advocate for athletics, Yow-Bowden spent more than four decades as a Division I women’s basketball coach, administrator and director of athletics. A member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, Yow-Bowden received many accolades during her remarkable career including the James J. Corbett Award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, the National Football Foundation’s John Toner Award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the governor of North Carolina and the 2021 Homer Rice Award from the LEAD1 Association.

A dedicated alumna, Yow-Bowden has served for 15 years as a member of the Elon University Board of Trustees. She has been a key leader on the board’s athletics policy and campus life committees, regularly offering advice on important issues such as Title IX and gender equity. As a supporter of the university, Yow-Bowden has helped fuel Elon’s national rise with generous gifts to Phoenix athletics.

A native of Gibsonville, N.C., Yow-Bowden received her bachelor’s degree in English from Elon. As a student-athlete, she was co-captain of the women’s basketball team under the leadership of her older sister, the late Kay Yow, who coached the team for four seasons before serving as women’s basketball coach
at North Carolina State University for 34 years.

After graduating from Elon, she coached basketball at Williams High School in Burlington and Eastern Guilford High School in her hometown of Gibsonville before moving into the collegiate coaching ranks first at the University of Kentucky and later at Oral Roberts University and the University of Florida. At each school, she led previously unranked teams into the Top 20 rankings nationally and at Florida averaged 20 wins per season during eight years as head coach.

Following a successful coaching career, she entered athletics administration with positions at the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Saint Louis University, where she served as athletics director. In that role, she demonstrated outstanding administrative skills and prioritized the success of student-athletes.

In 1994 Yow became the first woman to serve in the role of athletics director in the Atlantic Coast Conference when she moved to the University of Maryland, and would lead the Terrapin program to 20 national championships while establishing the university’s highest federal graduation rate. Sixteen years later, she would return to her home state to begin a nine-year stretch as athletics director at North Carolina State University. Under her leadership, N.C. State soared in the national Directors’ Cup rankings of the best overall collegiate athletics programs, climbing from No. 89 in 2010 to No. 15 in 2018.

Along with serving on many NCAA committees and councils, Yow-Bowden has served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics as well as the only female president for the Division I AD’s Association (now LEAD1).

Yow-Bowden is married to Dr. William Bowden. Her younger sister, Susan Yow ’76, also played basketball at Elon and later became Elon’s first women’s basketball All-American. All three Yow sisters have been inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.