COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 18, 2023) – USA Volleyball was saddened to learn of the death of 1968 U.S. Olympian Marilyn McReavy Nolen, who died April 13 in Big Lake, Texas, at age 78.
McReavy Nolen attended Howard Junior College before graduating from Southwest Texas State University in 1966.
She played for the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1967-75, winning the gold medal at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, before competing in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City where the U.S. Women finished eighth. She also competed at the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia.
In 2018, McReavy Nolen shared her memories of the 1968 Olympic Games while attending a reunion of the ’68 team in Colorado Springs:
“It was a wild time. The thing I remember is being able to eat in all the cafeterias. Every country had their own, so you could go around and eat all this different food. There was some concern we might get sick by eating different food. Early in the morning, I would go down to the track, which was way down below. I would just sit on the wall and watch these phenomenal human beings as they worked out in the morning on the track. It was an amazing thing. I can remember it like it was yesterday.
“I think the other thing was the fact that there were not that many women there. We had a hotel and there was a fence around it and we were guarded. I thought that was unusual.
“But also, going to downtown and hanging around. The traffic and the people. We traded everything. I brought my dad back this bright yellow jacket from France that I traded for. He wore it forever. I managed to get the West German warm-up stuff. Everybody was after it. All the different pins.”
McReavy Nolen went on to win two USA Volleyball women’s open national titles (1972, ’73) with E Pluribus Unum and she was a four-time All-American. McReavy Nolen helped develop the first U.S. Olympic national training center in Texas, before it moved to Colorado Springs.
While still playing, McReavy Nolen began a legendary coaching career at Sul Ross State University (Texas), where she helped start the women’s volleyball program.
McReavy Nolen and her U.S. teammate Mary Jo Peppler coached the 1971 and ’72 teams to the inaugural women’s volleyball college national championships, overseen at that time by the Division of Girls’ and Women’s Sports of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
McReavy Nolen went on to coach at New Mexico State, Utah State (where she won another national title with Peppler), Kentucky, Florida, North Florida and Saint Louis universities. In 2002, she became the third NCAA Division I coach to win 800 matches. She finished her career with 809.
She is a member of the USA Volleyball Hall of Fame, having won the All-Time Great Coach Award in 1996 and the James E. Coleman National Team Award in 2022.
She was named a Distinguished Alumna by Texas State University, a Title IX Trailblazer by the Atlantic 10 Conference and is a member of the halls of fame of the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), the Women’s Sports Foundation, Utah State, and Reagan County (Texas) Athletics.
McReavy Nolen was a popular speaker, trainer and clinician.
She is survived by her husband, Rev. Randolph Nolen, and her sons Travis and Ryan among other family.
Her memorial will be at 2 p.m. CDT on April 22 at the First United Methodist Church in Big Lake, Texas.