Honorary Vol Judy Constantine is dead at 93

Marvin WestObits, westwords

Judy Constantine, a University of Tennessee employee for 58 years and after that a volunteer with the UT Lettermen’s Club, has died at 93.

Judy retired in 1992 as executive assistant to the dean of continuing education. In that role, she provided guidance to dozens or hundreds of Volunteer athletes and former Vols.

She did it for the lettermen’s organization, too. In 1952 she was a leader in the rejuvenation of the Lettermen’s T-Club. Later, Judy, Jack Kile and Hal Wantland were credited with building membership to 1,600. Judy served as executive director. She was a powerful influence. She knew everybody.

“Judy was the Thornton Center before there was a Thornton Center,” said Don Bosch, Knoxville attorney and former president of the lettermen.

The Thornton Athletics Student Life Center is an academic guidepost and charging station for University of Tennessee student-athletes.

“Judy had a magic touch,” said Bosch. “I remember when a certain swimmer just had to have a certain class to graduate. That class was full. No one else could be admitted.”

Maybe it was a miracle but the swimmer got in and graduated as scheduled.

“We are lucky to have such an extraordinary network of support for our department,” said Doug Dickey when he was athletics director.

“Judy is one of many who have devoted themselves to our student-athletes. She has made a difference in the lives of many Volunteers through her dedication, support and willingness to listen and help.”

Vols got to know Constantine in almost direct proportion to how badly they needed a substitute mother. If all they needed was someone to tell about their problems, she was a great listener. If they needed a tour guide, she knew about life.

“She seemed to always know how heavy a hand to place on a shoulder,” said Bosch.

“Judy was the den mother for 40 years, serving as counselor, academic advisor and friend to thousands of athletes. It’s amazing to see them come back to the university after they have grown up and have families of their own, and they still turn to Judy for advice.”

Constantine was the first woman to be awarded an honorary letter. Gus Manning said she earned it by helping athletes and by helping the athletics department stay in touch with graduates all over the country.

Constantine helped raise money for the Letterman’s Wall of Fame. T-Club directors said thank you by having her name engraved on one of the marble benches adjacent to the wall.

The wall is a living memorial to all the players who earned a letter in any sport. New names are added each year. Vol for Life Gene Moeller supposedly came up with the idea. Former football stars Gordon Polofsky, Pat Shires and Bob Davis joined the just-do-it drive.

“It couldn’t have happened without the enthusiasm and know-how of Judy Constantine,” Moeller said. “She brought the pieces together.”

It didn’t hurt that she gave a donation.

“I’m not sure how I began working with the athletes,” Constantine once said. “I’ve always loved sports, and, in fact, I was a physical education major. I began doing scheduling and became an unofficial advisor for the athletes. But really, it was more than that. I listened and talked with them when they had no one else. I became a substitute mom in many ways.”

Judy was preceded in death by her husband, William Constantine, and a brother, James Baldwin.

The family will receive friends 11:30-2:30 Saturday, June 10, at Mynatt Funeral Home, Powell Chapel. A graveside service is planned for 3 p.m. at Lynnhurst Cemetery. The full obituary is here.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

View all obituaries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *