Donna Sanft, Executive Associate Athletics Director, holds one of the Pitt Athletic Department's most diverse and accomplished tenures. Her long association includes time as a student-athlete, head coach and, for the past two decades, administrator. Sanft works directly with Athletics Director Steve Pederson on all administrative aspects of the department.
Sanft has been responsible for coordinating Pitt's compliance and NCAA rules education programs and overseeing the Panther Game Plan, a student-athlete life skills program. In addition, she works directly with the Performance Team, the Development Team, and Men's Basketball. Sanft has served as sport administrator for many Pitt sports during her tenure, and has been a member of the Athletics Department Senior Staff since 1986. Sanft has served on numerous NCAA, Big East and University committees, and also served on the Board of the National Association for Athletics Compliance and chaired the national convention for that organization.
In 2007, she was named a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Staff Excellence in service to the University. The awards selection committee lauded Sanft's commitment and dedication to Pitt and its student-athletes as "truly exceptional." She was also praised for her volunteer work on assignments outside her typical job duties. Those endeavors included organizing and staffing the "Panther Zone," an alcohol-free social gathering for student football fans, and "PAWS," which gives young people in the Oak Hill Community an opportunity to attend weekly sport clinics and life skills educational programs led by Pitt student-athletes. The selection committee also noted Sanft's management of the University of Pittsburgh's successful NCAA certification project in which the NCAA peer review team described many areas of Pitt's program as "models for others to follow."
Sanft was named Head Women's Gymnastics Coach upon graduation from Pitt in 1974. While coaching the Panthers' gymnastics team for 12 years (1974-1986), Sanft compiled an 82-50-1 record and was twice selected the Eastern Region Collegiate Coach of the Year. During her tenure, she helped produce Pitt's only NCAA Champion in women's gymnastics, Lisa Shirk. Sanft's teams were in the Top 10 nationally in 1979 and 1986, and Top 20 in 1981, 1982, and 1984. Sanft served two tours on the NCAA's Women's Gymnastics Committee, chairing the Committee for three years, working on the rules and operations of NCAA gymnastics competition as well as overseeing the operations of numerous Regional and National NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships.
A 1974 graduate of Pitt with bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education, Sanft was a member and three-year captain of the gymnastics team. She was named Pitt's Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1974.
In 1999, Sanft was honored by the Pitt Varsity Letter Club as an "Awardee of Distinction," becoming the first female to receive the award. In 2008, Sanft was inducted into the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame, and also was recognized by the University's School of Education with a Departmental Alumni Award.
She and her husband Elliott have two adult daughters, Liza Barbour and Leah.
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