Inspired Coach Inspires Athletes: Michael Pittis ('68)

Michael Pittis, a 1968 WWU alumnus and long-time supporter of Western, has recently designated a significant portion of his IRA to The Foundation for WWU & Alumni aiming to bolster the newly established "Honoring Women in Sport and the Historic Impact of Title IX Endowment" scholarship. This scholarship, created by Terri McMahan ('77) and supported by numerous other former Viking athletes, celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX and provides scholarships to members of WWU varsity women's athletic teams.

Pittis has a long record of supporting women's sports. In 2011, he was inducted into the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame for his coaching in the Edmonds School District.

"That was my career highlight," he said. "I started teaching and coaching in Edmonds in 1968 when coaching opportunities were scarce. I went into teaching because of my tennis coach, who had a big impact on me."

The entire sports landscape changed just a few short years later. In 1972, Title IX, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, passed, and women's sports gained traction in school districts and communities across the country. Title IX also allowed Pittis—or "Pitt," as his students affectionately call him—to live out his dream of becoming a coach.

A WWU alumnus, he called upon Lynda Goodrich (’68), to help him learn the game. He took a volleyball class from Lynda, and she helped him develop a notebook of drills. 

He encouraged the Edmonds School District to hire former fellow alum Teri McMahan (’77), who remained there for 11 years. He also reconnected with another WWU friend —volleyball coach Diane Flick-Williams—and coached in WWU’s summer women’s volleyball camps.

"I knew nothing about women's volleyball, but I jumped in. I always tell people to watch a match and they'll get hooked," he said. "It's a beautiful game, full of grace and power. It's my favorite sport I've ever coached."

In addition to volleyball, he coached women's softball, track, and basketball. The volleyball team he coached made it to the state tournament seven times. In 2011, he was inducted into the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame for his coaching in the Edmonds School District. A colleague, David Quinn, commented in the Edmonds News on the article announcing Pittis’s Hall of Fame induction: 

“Mike Pittis is not only one of the most distinguished coaches in our state, but he is also one of the greatest teachers in the history of the Edmonds School District. Those of us fortunate enough to work side-by-side with “Pitt” (sometimes also known as “Pitt Daddy”) know that Mike has been a great mentor to the many thousands of students he worked with—and a thoughtful peer and friend to the hundreds of teachers and staff members lucky enough to call him friend.”

Pittis wanted to inspire others to support volleyball and other women's athletics, and to honor the opportunities Title IX brought not only to women in sports but also to gifted coaches like him. He seized the opportunity to use his IRA to make an impact. By committing funds from his IRA to be directed to this scholarship, money for the program will come to the university tax-free (in contrast, IRA assets left to individuals must satisfy ordinary income tax liability at the time of distribution). By designating the Foundation as a charitable beneficiary of a portion of his IRA, Mike still enjoys access to those funds during his lifetime, and the assets transfer to the university only after his death.

"I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had and what Western did for me," said Pittis. "I can't be happier about how I spent my professional life. It's been a pleasure to help that continue and go forward."

Western is grateful for having Michael Pittis among Western Washington University as a student, friend, and generous supporter.

by Frances Badgett