Pioneer in girls sports

When Ruth Callon was growing up in Whiteland in the 1930s and ’40s, organized sports opportunities for girls were, at best, limited. At worst, they were nonexistent.

Much has changed since then, thanks in no small measure to Callon.

A towering figure in the advancement of girls and women’s sports in Indiana, Callon dedicated much of her adult life to creating equal playing and learning opportunities for female athletes.

Inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, Callon — a 1948 Whiteland High School graduate — played basketball for four seasons at Franklin College (1948-52) and returned to the college in 1962 as a physical education professor and women’s basketball coach.

At the time, women’s athletics were highly unorganized and had no governing body. But it all changed a few years later, when Callon led a committee that founded the Indiana Collegiate Women’s Sports Organization.

But she didn’t stop there.

After spearheading the creation of the women’s league, Callon became one of the first — if not the first — person in the state to offer summer basketball camps for high school girls.

In 1973, Callon served on the IHSAA’s first girls advisory board, which paved the long overdue way for girls participation in IHSAA sports.

All the while, Callon was transforming women’s sports at Franklin College.

She served as the women’s basketball coach from 1962 to 1983, posting a career record of 181-121. Her teams won five small-college state championships, and in 1977 she led the Grizzlies to a 17-0 record and the Indiana Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women state championship.

Callon also had the distinction of successfully recruiting the state’s first Miss Basketball, Warsaw’s Judi Warren, in 1976.

But basketball wasn’t Callon’s only passion. At various times she also coached Franklin’s volleyball, softball and women’s soccer teams.

Before joining Franklin as a faculty member and coach, she taught for three years at Whiteland High School (1952-55) and established an intramural girls basketball league at the school in 1952.

One of only two Whiteland graduates in the Hall of Fame (Ray Crowe is the other), Callon, 84, has lived in the same home in Whiteland for the past 58 years. Her husband, George, died in 2001.

“I’ve been blessed by God,” said Callon, who retired from Franklin College in 1991. “He put me in the right places where I could help others.

“I wanted to give girls the opportunity to play.”