Clemson, ACC remember one of its greatest athletes of all-time
Clemson athletics not only lost one of its own on Monday, but it lost one of its best ambassadors.
Former women’s basketball player and administrator Barbara Kennedy-Dixon passed away after battling cancer. She was 58 years old.
Though known as one of the all-time great basketball players at Clemson, Kennedy-Dixon was so much more. She served as a coach and as administrator at Clemson for 31 years. She was a mentor, not just to the women basketball players at Clemson, but to all the student athletes.
Kennedy-Dixon loved Clemson and she always demonstrated her passion for the Tigers and Lady Tigers in everything that she did.
“The Clemson Country Gentleman was created as a way to pay homage to the Clemson cadets who represented all that was good about them…character, honesty, caring, loyalty, etc. Barbara was the personification of The Clemson Lady,” former Clemson women’s head coach Jim Davis said. “She not only was the greatest player, but more importantly, she was the greatest role model for hundreds of young ladies who became ‘her girls.’
“She provided a wonderful example of how to live life to the fullest. She mentored them and taught them life lessons. They knew her story of overcoming, persevering, loving and succeeding. She was a part of their hearts and will always be. Barbara Kennedy-Dixon was a Clemson Lady!”
Following her time as a student-athlete, Kennedy-Dixon served the Clemson Athletic Department in several different roles for over 31 years. She spent time on the women’s basketball staff as an assistant coach and director of operations, and also worked as an assistant in the compliance department and academic services.
“Barbara was the epitome of love manifested,” said former Clemson women’s basketball player & director of operations Kanetra Queen. “She had a unique way of making a large room feel smaller. The way she encountered each individual without the slightest difference in enthusiasm, interest and authenticity; a true angel on Earth. Her passion motivated many, but inspired even more. Her faith was relentless as she battled life’s most difficult obstacles. We are all forever changed, and for that, better having known her.”
From 2005-14, Kennedy-Dixon served as Clemson’s Senior Woman Administrator, and most recently, was Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Academic Services from 2014-17, before retiring in July of 2017. Even after her retirement, she continued to assist the Athletic Academic Services department in several areas, including with the Tiger Trust program.
“Barbara Kennedy-Dixon was my mentor, but she was also so much more,” said Stephanie Ellison-Johnson, Clemson’s Senior Associate Athletic. “I have been incredibly blessed by her wisdom and guidance. Barbara, who was SWA at the time, was one of my biggest supporters and always told me that I would succeed her in the SWA role someday.
“Since that day she provided me with countless opportunities to learn from her and share her knowledge, including passing on her three-ring binders. While it’s impossible to fill her shoes, I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone because she is always with me, walking side by side with me, in this role.”
Kennedy-Dixon was a two-time All-American, a three-time First Team All-ACC selection and a two-time ACC Tournament MVP during her four-year playing career at Clemson, from 1978-‘82.
Kennedy-Dixon was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Clemson Ring of Honor in 2000.
Kennedy-Dixon’s accomplishments on the basketball court are still recognized today, as many of her records still stand, not only in Clemson and ACC record books, but also nationally. Nearly forty years later, she still holds the Clemson and ACC records for career points (3,113) and career rebounds (1,252), as well as career field goals made (1,349) and attempted (2,688).
She is also known for scoring the first-ever points in the inaugural NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, when the Lady Tigers played Penn State on March 12, 1982.
She also holds the Clemson and ACC single-season records for points (908), points per game (29.3), field goals made (392), field goal attempts (760), rebounds (400) and rebounds per game (12.9), all achieved during the 1981-82 season. Her 392 field goals made is still the NCAA record in that category, while her 908 points and 29.3 scoring average are ranked 11th and 14th, respectively, in those categories.
“All of us in the Clemson Athletics family are saddened by the news of Barbara’s passing,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “She was such a beacon of light to all those who came in contact with her. Positive always and the consummate professional, we will miss Barbara and her engaging way.
“We all wish her peace after her courageous battle.”
Kennedy earned All-America honors in 1981 and 1982, and was a three-time First Team All-ACC selection, in 1980, 1981 and 1982. She was also named the ACC Tournament Most Valuable Player two times in her career, in 1981 and 1982. She was a member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team in 2002 and was honored as Clemson women’s basketball’s ACC Legend in 2005.
“Barbara was a tremendous person, and she will forever be part of the fabric of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Her talents were many, especially as a giant in the sport of women’s basketball and then as an administrator,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “What I will always remember about Barbara was her passion for Clemson University, her faith and most importantly, her family. Our thoughts and prayers will remain with her entire family, especially Marvin, Jalen and Jasmine.”
Kennedy-Dixon’s funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
–Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story