By Jessica Poole, U-M Athletic Media Relations
"Try my hardest and be a nice person."
These are the words that Michigan women's basketball legend Diane Dietz (1979-1982) lives by and, as she joins an elite group of former student-athletes to be inducted in the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame this evening (Monday, June 22), she reflects back on how those words helped her get to where she is today.
Dietz played for the Wolverines at a time when women's basketball was in its infancy at the collegiate level. The NCAA Tournament as we know it didn't exist; instead it was the AIAW. And women's sports were just beginning to come up to par with their male counterparts.
As a freshman, Dietz stormed onto the Michigan basketball scene. In her first year, she led the Wolverines in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game, which set the tone for her collegiate career. She went on to lead the Wolverines in scoring and averaged in double figures each of her four years. She was also U-M's first four-time captain and MVP.
"I never in a million years thought that my Michigan experience would turn out the way that it did," said Dietz. "If you would have told me that I would be the all-time leading scorer and would have received all of the awards that I have as a freshman, I probably would have walked away. My main goal was to try my hardest and be a nice person. In class, I tried my hardest and, in games and practice, I tried my hardest. I thought that if I did that every day it would add up to an extraordinary student-athlete experience."
Dietz most certainly can lay claim to an excellent student-athlete experience. You can find Dietz littered throughout the Michigan women's basketball records. She is U-M's all-time leading scorer with 2,076 points, she tops Michigan's career field goals made list with 940, and she is second all-time in scoring average, 19.6 points per game for her career. She also ranks third all-time in steals with 229 and 12th all-time in rebounds with 559. Dietz also holds numerous single-season records, including the top spots in field goals made with 253 during the 1981-82 season and field goals attempted with 556 during her senior season.
Not only was Dietz a star on the hardwood, but she also managed to get things done in the classroom. She is a three-time Academic All-American and becomes just the second Wolverine to be inducted into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame, joining Richard Balzhiser, a fullback on U-M's 1952 and '53 football teams.
"This is such a great honor that I can't really wrap my head around it at this point," said Dietz. "This class is so impressive and it's funny to think about it and realize that your resume is among some of the greats in collegiate athletics. I'm grateful to be a part of this, but really this is an honor that is shared with thousands of people that have helped me get here."
The University of Michigan and all who were a part of her experience have helped mold Diane into the person that she is today and she has no doubt that her time as a student-athlete played a significant part of her development.
"You can't go to school and practice and travel like student-athletes do without an extraordinary disciplined approach," said Dietz. "It's what you do and it's who you become and that is really who and what I've become. I had an opportunity to learn in battles the idea of success and failure, the trials and tribulations of ups and downs and leadership. The thought is that it's counterintuitive to let a child suffer and everyone at Michigan from coaches to support staff tried to help us not struggle, but we did. We struggled to get everything that we needed to get done, but everything, including those struggles, prepared me for life and where I am now."
The Chief Marketing and Community Relations Officer at Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Dietz manages marketing, public affairs, communications and public policy activities for the Cranbrook Schools, Cranbrook Art Academy and Museum, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Cranbrook House and Gardens. She also serves as internal counsel and manages the Cranbrook Archives and Cultural Properties.
From 1996-2008, Dietz worked for the Comcast Corporation in Philadelphia, Pa., and was a Senior Vice President and Senior Director of Public Affairs for Comcast from 2005-08, after serving as VP of Corporate Affairs for the Midwest Division office in Southfield, Mich. As senior vice president, she was responsible for developing and growing Comcast's community investment initiatives, including those related to Comcast Cares Day, City Year, United Way, The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Leaders and Achievers, and the Comcast Foundation. She joined Comcast in 1996 after working as an attorney at Howard & Howard Attorneys in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
A member of the Board of Directors for the United Way of Southeast Pennsylvania since 2005, she led a company-wide United Way campaign (90,000 employees) for three years, growing the contribution from $2.3 million to $5.8 million. She also participated in the Philadelphia Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program.
Dietz earned her Bachelor's degree from Michigan in general studies (1982), graduating with a 3.52 grade-point average. The recipient of the 1982 Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor for excellence in scholarship, athletics and community service, she graduated with Distinction, and in 1985 earned her law degree, cum laude, from Thomas Cooley Law School (Lansing, Mich.). In 1995, she was honored as the recipient of the U-M Gerald R. Ford Award, the highest academic honor bestowed by the Michigan Athletic Department, recognizing an individual who exemplifies excellence in scholarship, sports and society. One year later, she was inducted into the U-M Hall of Honor as someone who has made significant contributions to the U-M athletics tradition.
"I'm so grateful for CoSIDA and ESPN the Magazine for sponsoring this award," said Dietz. "It's an amazing thing for student-athletes to be honored not only for their athletic accomplishments but also for giving back and being role models. CoSIDA and ESPN the Magazine have honored hundreds of role models with this award and I'm so proud and honored to be afforded the opportunity to be a role model for a child somewhere."
Michigan Director of Athletics Bill Martin believes that Dietz is truly deserving of the award.
"This is such a tremendous honor for Diane, and one she truly deserves. We are so proud of her," Martin. "Diane is the epitome of what a Michigan student-athlete represents; she was obviously a tremendous basketball player, but more importantly, she succeeded in the classroom and has carried that over to her professional life and community. She has tremendous character, and truly makes a difference in people's lives."
Michigan head women's basketball coach Kevin Borseth echoes Martin's sentiments on Diane's accomplishments and what her success means for the program.
"I think this is a terrific honor for Diane," said Borseth. "I think it's truly amazing that we have someone of Diane's caliber both on and off the court to call a member of the Michigan women's basketball family. She truly is a role model for all of the young women that pass through our program."
"Nobody thinks they are going to be great," said Dietz. "I really felt that if I tried my hardest at everything I did it would all work out."
It most definitely worked out.