Dr. Joy Butler (1957-2019)

The physical education and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) community lost a treasured and valued member of its community. Dr Joy Butler passed away on September 16th, 2019 at home, just as she wished, and was surrounded by a loving circle of friends after a six-year battle with cancer.

Joy was born in Cambridge, England on June 16th, 1957. She was always determined to make a difference in the world. A visionary Head of Department and national youth basketball coach, Joy used methods and programs that were considered innovative at that time. In 1989, Joy and her partner Claire moved to the US where Joy completed her master’s degree and then her doctorate, both at Boston University.

Joy was a pioneer in so many things in her career and life– moving countries three times, developing innovations in teaching and learning, and most significantly leading, shaping and supporting an international movement around sport and physical education. Her research and teaching have been developed around constructivism, complexity thinking, situated ethics and community wellness.

With respect to TGfU, Joy was the founder and directed the first TGfU Conference in 2001. At this conference Joy proposed that an international committee be formed which became the TGfU International Task Force in 2002. She served as chair for 8 years. Joy’s goal was to allow a more democratic participation in the governance. Joy was also instrumental in steering the task force through its development into Special Interest Group (SIG) status within AIESEP. Within the TGfU SIG there is an Executive Committee and an International Advisory Board (IAB), which represents approximately 17 countries with the goal to keep communication and sharing open more globally.

She also directed the 4th International TGfU Conference in 2008. Joy made strong connections across the globe giving presentations and workshops on TGfU in many different countries, including Botswana, China, Latin America, Finland, Singapore, Australia, Spain, Taiwan, Hong Kong, UK and Colombia.

In the last few years, despite her health issues, she was exercising daily and was a firm believer in getting moving which included going kayaking, hiking and dragon boating. It was inspiring to see her commitment and determination in the face of adversity. She will be dearly missed, and her legacy will live on in her numerous interests including the graduate cohort program for practising teachers and the TGfU Sig.