Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century,” works by intentionally expanding the opportunities for learning and achievements in science technology across biology, agriculture, artificial intelligence, and geospatial information systems. Her work makes it possible for people of all ages to gain access to education, sports, culture, and lifelong learning. Jackie’s accomplishments, leadership, and the generous sharing of her talents benefit everyone she comes in connect with. Jackie has used her training and skills in the Olympics to inspire organizations, companies, and youth across leadership, determination, and social issues today. In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) awarded the Director’s Community Leadership Award to the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation. This distinctive award was formally created in 1990 to honor individuals and organizations for combating terrorism, cyber-crime, illegal drugs, gangs, and other crimes leading to violence in America. The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation is one of 56 individuals or organizations around the United States who received the award.
Significant contributions and leadership have marked her post-athletic career as a philanthropist and a tireless advocate for children’s education, health issue, racial equality, social reform, and women’s rights. In 1988, she established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation as the vehicle through which she provides youth, adults, and families with the resources to improve their quality of life.
A dynamic public speaker, Joyner-Kersee continues to be a sought-after motivational speaker and voice for the issues affecting 21st-century global society. Webster University, Missouri, presented her with the Champion For All award at its 2019 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference. She was a featured speaker at the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network’s (ARDN) Second Women of the Diaspora Summit: Economic Equity. ARDN has now asked her to serve as a Good Will Ambassador.
In 2000, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation raised over $12 million to build The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, a 41,000 square-foot facility with a 1,200-seat gymnasium on a 37-acre site. The center fulfills the largely unmet need for youth recreation and sports venues in East St. Louis. In 2007, Joyner-Kersee and several well-known pro athletes founded Athletes for Hope. This charitable organization helps professional athletes get involved in philanthropic causes and inspires millions of non-athletes to volunteer in community support.
Jackie is a six-time Olympic medalist, including three Olympic gold medals. She dominated the Olympic heptathlon and long jump events throughout her career and four Olympic Games. The World Heptathlon Record set at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, still stands today. Sports Illustrated named Jackie the most outstanding female athlete of the 20th century.
One of ESPN’s 50 Greatest Athletes of the Century and Sports Illustrated Female Athlete of the Century, Jackie Joyner-Kersee dominated the sport of track and field for more than 20 years, setting world and American records that still exist today.
The second of four children, Joyner-Kersee, was born in East St. Louis, Ill. Though lacking in material possessions, her family never failed to provide her with abundant love and support. Joyner-Kersee was also blessed with exceptional talent and an unshakable belief in herself. That foundation led her to become a basketball and track star in high school and college. She received a basketball scholarship to UCLA. This same foundation helped her distinguish herself in track and field, most notably in the long jump and heptathlon.
Joyner-Kersee rose to prominence as an All-State and All-America prep performer at Lincoln Senior High School in East St. Louis, Missouri. At UCLA, she received the All-University Athlete Award for the first of three times in 1982. A four-year starter on the women’s basketball team, she ranks among UCLA’s career leaders in scoring, rebounding and games played.
Joyner-Kersee was the most dominant American figure in the long jump and heptathlon during her collegiate career. In fact, since placing second in the heptathlon at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, she has never lost a completed heptathlon.
In 1985 she was awarded the Broderick Cup as the nation’s top collegiate female athlete and the Olympia Award as one of the nation’s top athletes in an Olympic sport. She was named first team All-Conference in basketball after the Bruins defeated a Cheryl Miller-led USC team twice in the same season.
In 1987 she was named the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportswoman of the Year and the Associated Press Female Athlete. Her gold medal-winning performance in the 1988 Olympics resulted in a world record for the fourth time. In 1992, she again scored over 7,000 points to become the first woman in history to win back-to-back Olympic heptathlons and a bronze medal in the long jump.
In 1993, Joyner-Kersee received UCLA’s Professional Achievement Award.
She has received many prestigious awards, including the St. Louis Ambassadors Sportswoman of the Year Award, the Sporting News Athlete of the Year Award (the first woman to receive either of these awards), the Sullivan Award, and the Jesse Owens Memorial Award, which she won two years in a row. Yet with all the awards and accolades, Joyner-Kersee is most proud of her achievements off the track.