Flames to retire No. 55 in honor of Tonya McGowan
Former UIC Athletics Senior Associate AD/SWA and student-athlete Tonya McGowan will see her women’s basketball jersey number rise into the rafters of Credit Union 1 Arena on Saturday, Jan. 11, during halftime of the women’s game against Northern Kentucky. McGowan will be honored for nearly 40 years of service within the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at UIC after retiring from the department in August of 2019. Tipoff for the game is set for 2 p.m.
Complimentary tickets for the game can be obtained by all UIC faculty and staff clicking here. Students receive free admission to all UIC Athletics home events.
McGowan has been a mainstay within the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at UIC since beginning her career as a student-athlete in 1981. She began working full-time in Athletics in 1995 and was named the Senior Woman Administrator in 2001.
During McGowan’s four-year playing career she scored 745 points while shooting 47.9% from the field, a mark that is sixth-best in UIC history. She led her team in scoring in her final season with 12.5 points per game while shooting an outstanding 52.8 percent field-goal percentage, the fourth-best mark on the school’s all-time list. McGowan’s outstanding playing career was honored when she was inducted into the UIC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995.
A native of the South Side of Chicago, McGowan’s interest in athletics grew during her time as a cheerleader in the seventh and eighth grades at Alfred D. Kohn Elementary School. It was there that she was exposed to the game of basketball, a sport she would move on to play at Corliss High School, where she was team captain during her senior year. McGowan’s basketball skills and toughness on the court were developed while playing the game with boys during open-gym sessions at Corliss and during pickup games at her local park.
McGowan intended to follow her sister to Illinois State University after high school, without any thought of playing sports in college. After receiving a partial scholarship offer to play for the women’s basketball team at UIC, however, McGowan considered the opportunity. The encouragement of a close cousin and the financial ease that the scholarship would have on her family led her to play for the Flames.
After graduating with a degree in criminal justice, McGowan stayed at UIC by joining the school’s Office of International Criminal Justice, where she worked for 12 years and traveled all over the world. Although her college playing days were finished, McGowan continued to contribute to athletics. She served as a volunteer graduate assistant for the Flames for a year, took part in numerous athletic department committees, and participated in summer and winter basketball leagues; she was even part of a team that won the Chicago Bulls’ inaugural 3-on-3 tournament.
In 1995 McGowan’s hard work on behalf of athletics was recognized by former Director of Athletics Jim Schmidt when she was offered a position on the UIC Athletics staff, where she has been diligently helping student-athletes on every team ever since. McGowan has been responsible for human resource issues, financial aid and housing assistance for UIC student-athletes, and other items related to numerous UIC teams. She also serves on multiple committees for the Horizon League and holds many duties regarding matters related to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).