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Honoring Pat Summitt: A Coaching Legend and Winning Alzheimer's Advocate

Posted by on 7/5/2016
The Alzheimer’s community lost a true fighter last week when Pat Summitt, women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee and one of the most winning coaches in NCAA history, passed away from early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Pat was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011 and stepped down as Tennessee’s coach the following year after 38 years with the team, boasting an incredible 1,098-208 record and eight national titles. Pat held the title of coach emeritus until her death at 64 years old.

In Pat’s memoir, “Game On,” she wrote about her mental struggles to follow the action in a game or plan players’ moves before she stepped down as coach of the Lady Vols. But despite the diagnosis, Pat's determined and winning attitude continued on, as she worked to raise awareness and advocate for people affected by dementia.  Soon after she announced her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the “We Back Pat” campaign was born and quickly gained support for the legendary coach.

Pat also started the Pat Summitt Foundation with the help of her son, Tyler Summitt. The Foundation is dedicated to Alzheimer’s research, education and awareness of the disease, and supports services to patients, their families and caregivers. Part of the proceeds will also support the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Clinic, which will tentatively open at the University of Tennessee medical center in December 2016.

Honoring Coach Pat Summitt and Her Foundation for Alzheimer's

The Foundation has promised to raise $500,000 per year for the next five years. In a letter posted on patsummit.org, Pat had bravely wrote: “In my 38 years as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols I have preached the following things: Absolute dedication, unselfishness, unwillingness to give up, determination to see every contest to the very end. I have demanded these things from the young people I’ve coached. Now I am asking them from you. Tyler and I have decided to join this battle, not just for us, but also for the millions of families affected by this disease.”  Through this work, Pat's legacy as a winner and a fighter will continue to live on.

Contributing Author: Danielle Korby, University of MN Journalism Major

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