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Joy DeSensi, UT Chancellor’s Professor Emerita and longtime scholar and practitioner in the field of sport management, passed away April 1, after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 71.

Joy DeSensi

A visitation will be held today from 4 to 8 p.m. at Rose Mortuary, where a rosary service will take place at 4:30 p.m. A Catholic Mass will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 5, at John XXIII University Parish Catholic Center.

DeSensi’s career at UT spanned nearly 40 years. She served as the associate dean of UT’s Graduate School for five years as well as department head and professor of kinesiology, recreation, and sport studies in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences before retiring in May 2015.

In 2013, the North American Society of Sport Management, of which she was a founding member, honored her with the inaugural diversity award for exceptional contributions to promote diversity and inclusion within NASSM and related sports management disciplines.

DeSensi served as president of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport, the National Association for Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher Education, and the Southern Academy of Women in Physical Activity, Sport, and Health.

DeSensi was a leading figure in advancing women in physical education, sport studies, and kinesiology. She was an author and editor and served on numerous national and international committees.

She was a shooter on the 1968 Olympic rifle team, a concert pianist, and a trained airplane pilot. Her background as an intercollegiate athlete, coach, official, and national and international sports competitor served as a foundation for her teaching, research, and service interests.

DeSensi received her doctorate in sport philosophy and administrative theory from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was named a distinguished alumna. She earned her master’s degree in education from the University of Memphis, and bachelor’s degree in physical education and Spanish from West Liberty University.

She is one of the authors of Ethics and Morality in Sport Management. Her scholarly interests included the sociocultural issues of sport, the broad aspects of diversity, and ethics in sport management.

Ashleigh Huffman and Joy DeSensi

DeSensi earned a number of awards throughout her academic career, including: Scholar Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Sport Management Association in 2015; a fellow of the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education in 2015; the inaugural diversity award from the North American Society for Sport Management in 2013; the Rachel Bryant Lecture Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport in 2010; the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education in 2010; the Chancellor’s Professorship from UT in 2008; the Angie Warren Perkins Award for Excellence in Governance and Administration from UT in 2007; and the President’s Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport in 2005.

“Dr. DeSensi was undoubtedly one of the most influential people in my life,” said Ashleigh Huffman, assistant director of UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. “She was my champion, my role model, and my mentor. I will carry her legacy forward.”

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to a UT graduate scholarship fund at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. Checks can be made payable to the University of Tennessee in honor of the Joy T. DeSensi Scholarship Fund. For more information, contact center director Sarah Hillyer at

Friends, family, and colleagues are encouraged to share their photos and memories of DeSensi on the CEHHS tribute page. An obituary for DeSensi is in the Knoxville News Sentinel.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,