Early in her academic career, California State University, Chico President Gayle Hutchinson knew she wanted to learn about and teach physical education—which was later called kinesiology. And after years of teaching and advocacy at all levels from elementary school to university ranks, she’s being recognized for her efforts by her discipline’s national organization.

The American Kinesiology Association (AKA) recently announced that it will honor Hutchinson with its Jerry R. Thomas Distinguished Leadership Award, recognizing outstanding administrative and leadership performance of an individual that helps contribute to the attainment of the member institution’s goals.

“To receive the Jerry R. Thomas Distinguished Leadership Award is one of the highest honors in the field of kinesiology,” Hutchinson said. “To be recognized in this way by my academic peers is a tremendous honor.”

To be eligible for the award, individuals must have served at least three years as a chair or director of an AKA-member department and currently hold an administrative appointment as a chair or director, associate or assistant dean, dean, or an administrative appointment at a level above the dean.

Hutchinson has made a lifetime of educating herself and others about the benefits of physical activity. After earning her bachelor’s degree in physical education teacher education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1979, she went on to earn her master’s degree in teaching analysis and curriculum development from Columbia University, as well as her doctorate in teacher education and staff development from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1990.

From published books and peer-reviewed works to successful grants and her many teaching positions, Hutchinson’s focus on promoting physical education never wavered. In 1990, Hutchinson joined the CSU, Chico faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology. She taught in the classroom for 17 years, earning tenure, promotion and the rank of full professor, then chaired the department from 2002–07.

“I’ve come a long way from my girlhood days as a fullback on my high school field hockey team, going on to discover my passion in kinesiology and devoting my career to higher education, “Hutchinson said. “And yet those moments on the hockey field remain some of the most foundational of my life.”

Hutchinson’s leadership and mentorship over the years have reached thousands of students across the country. Among the students she taught at CSU, Chico was current Department of Kinesiology Chair Kevin Patton. Recalling his student experiences with Hutchinson, Patton said she inspired him to do more and aim higher for his own education.

“As my teacher and thesis advisor, she was a true mentor to me. In fact, she was a main reason I went on to pursue my doctorate,” Patton said. “Now as an aspiring leader, I look up to her for her highly effective and thoughtful approach to leadership.”

Hutchinson will receive the American Kinesiology Association’s Jerry R. Thomas Distinguished Leadership Award in January 2020 at the AKA banquet in Tampa, Florida.