A distinguished academic career that has engaged and nurtured the evolution of sport management worldwide was acknowledged at the highest level when Professor Kristine Toohey was named a Member of the Order for Australia on Saturday.
Professor Toohey, who is based with Griffith’s Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management on the Gold Coast, is a self-confessed sports fanatic who has followed her dream since first qualifying with a Diploma in Physical Education in the 1970s.
“I’ve always loved sport and feel blessed to be able to work in this area,” she said. “It’s who I am.”
Her interest in sport took her to the United States where she completed her training with a Bachelor of Art degree and a Master of Arts thesis, with a thesis on Olympics Politics. A burgeoning passion for the Olympics Games would lead her on to a PhD, with her thesis on the politics of Australian sport.
When Sydney won the right to host the 2000 Olympics, Professor Toohey’s career took another significant step forward and she has built on that and is looking forward to the Gold Coast’s successful bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Recently she returned from the spectacle that was the London Games in 2012.
As Professor of Sport Management at Griffith University she will teach the country’s inaugural university course on the Commonwealth Games, starting in February.
Her involvement in sport reaches from the heady heights of the Olympics to grassroots level where she has continued to influence and support sports organisations in an environment that is constantly changing. She has served on many sports boards from local to national organisations.
Asked the biggest change to sport’s landscape since her first involvement and two words leap forward. “Money and TV,” she says. “To put it another way, TV equals money. That’s the biggest change.
“Today it is far easier for the public to get access to top-level sport. The public has become a lot more demanding and this means sports organisations have to adapt from small kitchen affairs to be professional businesses. Sport is certainly becoming more professional at all levels.”
Researching sport and sharing her knowledge with each new generation of students is another huge source of occupational satisfaction for Professor Toohey, who learned of her AM nomination when a letter dropped into her mailbox last September.
“It’s a bit overwhelming. It’s hard to put into words. I read it; I couldn’t believe it and I just started to cry. It’s a very a humbling experience. I’m a very proud Aussie. My country is very important to me.”