As one of the most decorated female athletes of all-time, Jackie dominated the track and field circuit for 16 years and won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals spanning four Olympic Games during her illustrious career. At the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, she won the silver medal in the heptathlon. Four years later, at the 1988 Games in Seoul, Korea, Jackie struck gold in both her signature events - the heptathlon (world record) and long jump. She followed that up at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain by winning gold in the heptathlon and bronze in the long jump. In her final Olympic appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, she won the bronze medal in the long jump. In addition, she won a total of four gold medals (two in the heptathlon and two in the long jump) at three different World Championships and finished first in the long jump at the 1987 Pan American Games.
Sports Illustrated for Women magazine named Jackie the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century. On three different occasions (1994, 1987 and 1986), she was honored by Track & Field News as the World Athlete of the Year. She also was named as the top American Athlete five times (1994, 1992, 1991, 1987 and 1986).
Jackie received the Jesse Owens Award in both 1986 and 1987. She still holds the world record in the heptathlon (7291 points) and is the American record holder in both the heptathlon and long jump (24-7). On December 3, 2004, she was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame. The March 2002 issue of Ebony included her on its list of the Top 10 Greatest African-American Women Athletes.
Jackie attended college at UCLA and starred in both track & field and women's basketball from 1980-to-1985. A four-year starter on the Bruins' basketball team, she is still listed among the school's career leader in scoring average, rebounding and assists.
The inaugural recipient of the Humanitarian Athlete of the Year, Joyner-Kersee is known worldwide for her interest in aiding others. She has helped to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation in her hometown of East St. Louis, Ill., that has raised more than $12 million.
In 2007, she along with several notable athletes, founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization of professional athletes who get involved in charitable causes and inspire millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support their community.
In 2010, Joyner Kersee was honored with an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award given each year by the American National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to recognize six distinguished former student-athletes on their 25th anniversary as college graduates. Most recently, Jackie was selected as the recipient of the 2011 Dick Enberg Award. The Award is presented annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America® Teams Program and/or the student-athlete while promoting the values of education and academics.
Jackie has recently embarked upon a nationwide effort to enhance the comprehensive health of our nation’s communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles. She has been asked by the United States Department of Agriculture to promote My Plate, the replacement for the food pyramid. She has also joined forces with the 77-year-old Farm Foundation to address the availability of healthy foods in challenged communities throughout the United States. In addition, she just completed a series of internal Public Service Announcements to promote the use of the agency’s online products.
Jackie is married to famed track and field coach Bobby Kersee.
NAFSA 2021 Plenary Sponsors
NAFSA thanks New York University for their generous support of the Wednesday plenary with Jackie Joyner-Kersee at NAFSA 2021.