ISU Magazine

Volume 41 | Number 2 | Spring/Summer 2011

Mount Kilimanjaro

A view of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Photos courtesy of Cynthia Pemberton

Reaching For The Top

Spring 2011 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

Cynthia Pemberton

It's hard to say which was the more satisfying view for Idaho State University's Cynthia Pemberton - the landscape of the African continent after climbing the 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, or the "sea of little girls, all in matching shirts, that are thrilled to participate" in National Girls and Women in Sports Day activities.

The year 2010 featured two milestones for Pemberton:

These two divergent activities are manifested and embodied in the ISU National Girls and Women and Sports Day held annually, co-founded by Pemberton and former ISU faculty member Sandra Noakes. NGWSD is geared toward giving girls opportunities to engage and continue in sports and physical activities, and for the girls to learn lifelong leadership skills. Pemberton excels in both engaging in sport in the broadest sense, and in leadership, including being a leader on the national level for promoting women's college athletics.

Sports are an important part Pemberton's personal life; in her spare time she likes to hike, mountain and road bike, swim, mountaineer, rock climb, scuba dive at sites all over the world, and downhill, cross-country and skate ski.

"I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie," Pemberton added. "I like relatively high-risk adventure. On my 30th birthday I jumped out of an airplane solo, twice. On my 35th I bungee-jumped off a bridge forward and then backward, on my 40th I flew a glider plane, and in celebration of my 50th I summited Kilimanjaro."

Professionally she has combined her love of sport with her interest in empowering women. Prior to coming to ISU, Pemberton served for more than a decade as an intercollegiate athletic administrator, and successful intercollegiate coach at the NCAA Division-I, Division-III, and NAIA levels. She earned conference and district coach of the year honors numerous times, as well as NAIA national coach of the year in the sport of swimming.

Pemberton has and continues to publish widely, and to present and consult locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on Title IX and gender equity in school sport. She authored the book, More Than a Game: One Woman's Fight for Gender Equity in Sport, an autobiographical account chronicles the struggle for Title IX compliance and gender equity in school sport from 1992 through 1998, at a small liberal arts college in Oregon.

Her past leadership on women's collegiate sports issues was a large part of why she was selected as a Vision 2020 delegate and to represent Idaho on a national stage (for more information on Vision 2020 visit

"What an incredible experience to meet and network with such a talented group of women leaders," Pemberton said. "I was and am, honored, excited and eager to join them in helping to realize the vision embodied in the Declaration of Equality."

The 116 Vision 2020 delegates, who will serve through 2012, signed a Declaration of Equality last fall and pledged to return to their home states and work to realize the goal of greater women's leadership. A major component of Pemberton's Vision 2020 work is continuing the success of the ISU NGWSD.

"Vision 2020, my work with National Girls and Women and Sports Day and a lot of my professional and personal life have been dedicated to breaking down barriers for women," Pemberton said. "There's plenty more to be done, but events like National Girls and Women in Sports Day fill me with optimism."