Photo of Karen Strong

Karen StrongKaren Strong

Photo of Karen Strong
School: Marshall Graduation Year: 1973

Year Inducted: 2015

Sports Played: Tennis

High School Honors: 4-year Tennis participant (letters weren’t awarded then), PIL doubles champion senior year. Participated in intramural volleyball and basketball.

Post High School Career: Portland State University, 4-years volleyball, all-regional, senior; 4 years basketball, all-regional last three years and All-American, junior; 4-years softball. Field Hockey 1-year. Co-athlete of the year, senior. Women Olympic basketball team try-out in 1976 (avg. 22 points and 14 rebounds per game). Inducted into PSU Hall of Fame 2010.

Teaching: 34 years in Portland Public Schools, 28 at Fernwood, coached 2 years. High School Basketball Official 15 years (1st woman to referee at Boys tournament in Baker City), Volleyball official 20 years and softball umpire 20 years. Volleyball official for Portland Park Bureau 30 years.


Somewhere behind the athlete I have become, the hours of practice and the coaches who pushed me to excel, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… I have always played for her and the Mother I lost to cancer in 1972.

I grew up tall in Southeast Portland in the early Sixties. For girls inter-league play was limited to tennis, swimming and track and field. Basketball and volleyball were intramural sports only. My tennis coach at Marshall High School was Mary Hamilton and my senior year my tennis partner, Diane Carroll and I qualified for the state tournament. In the six decade history of Marshall High School we are still the only girls’ doubles team that ever qualified for state.

However, my greatest love was basketball. The two Binsmead elementary teachers who inspired me to succeed in the sport are Fred Sandau and Dale Langley. They let me play with the boys and that is how I got better. In the Sixties girls were only allowed to play on one half of the court or the other and you were only allowed three dribbles.

In 1973, I attended Portland State University and was honored to be the first woman in the State of Oregon to receive a “full ride” scholarship to play basketball. In addition to four years of basketball,, I played four years of volleyball, four years of softball and one year of field hockey all without being awarded a single Varsity letter because only men received such accolades.

My junior year at PSU I was nominated for All-American honors in basketball. I also received an invitation to try-out for the 1976 Women Olympic Basketball Team. I am grateful to the three Portland State coaches who instilled me with self-discipline: Marlene Piper, Oma Blankenship and Sharkey Nelson.

When I was inducted into PSU Hall of Fame in 2010, I had held three Women Basketball records for 35 years: most points scored in a single game, highest point average in a single season and the highest rebound average per season. I taught Physical Education in the Portland School District for 37 years, but as soon as my playing career ended I “stayed in the game” by officiating. I refereed in volleyball, basketball and softball. My officiating career has included five State Championships in volleyball and I was the first woman ever to officiate a Boys’ and Girls’ State Basketball Tournament in Baker City, Oregon.

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