Her name may not be as recognizable as Bill Bowerman's or Bill Hayward's, but her impact on sports at the University of Oregon is just as admirable. Janet Woodruff guided women's athletics from 1929 to 1967. During her 38 years at Oregon, Woodruff was a leading women's physical education instructor and coach, helping to expand the athletic offerings for women.
A native of Salem, Ohio, Woodruff obtained undergraduate degrees in physical education and teaching and received a master's degree in education from Columbia University before beginning her career at Oregon in 1929. She started as an assistant professor and transitioned into tenured professor status. As a professor she played an influential role in molding female physical education students for their careers as educators and coaches. Woodruff's primary responsibilities at Oregon were to coordinate the service course programs, such as swimming and badminton. She was the head of the Teacher Preparation Program for Women during the 1930s and 1940s. She was also the director of the Service Course Program for Women throughout her career.
A field hockey player herself, Woodruff stepped in as the head coach of the women's field hockey team during her first year on campus and held the post until her retirement in 1967. Although she encouraged athletic interest among women, Woodruff was against excessive competition, as she feared it would hinder the essence of the experience for women. Always known for her professionalism, Woodruff always dressed in wool suits and heels, only "dressing down" for practices.
In conjunction with her many contributions to the University and women's athletics, Woodruff held leadership roles in several physical education organizations, including the National Association for Physical Education of College Women, and she was the University's first delegate for the Pac-8 Women's Athletic Conference.
Woodruff received numerous national and local honors for her efforts, including the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Oregon. In 1991, the gymnasium in Gerlinger Hall was named the Janet G. Woodruff Gymnasium in recognition of her contributions. She was inducted into the Oregon Hall of Fame in 2003.