The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University has named Iowan Lisa Bluder as the 2024 Robert D. and Billie Ray Pillar of Character Award recipient. 

Lisa Bluder, head Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Iowa, will accept the award on April 19 at The Ray Center’s All-Star Evening in West Des Moines. An All-Star Evening is presented by Hy-Vee and benefits The Ray Center’s programs, including CHARACTER COUNTS! 

“The Robert D. and Billie Ray Pillar of Character Award means so much to me because of the respect I have for former Governor Ray and his wife Billie,” said Bluder. “They have lived their lives with the utmost integrity and civility. I have had the privilege of knowing them personally, and I can’t think of an award more meaningful than one named after their example.”  

Iowa Hawkeyes Head Coach Lisa Bluder during an exhibition game against Clarke University Oct. 22. (Brian Ray/

Prior to her current coaching role at the University of Iowa, Bluder led the Drake Women’s Basketball team for 10 seasons, from 1990–2000. 

“Lisa is not only an exceptional coach, but also a great exemplar of character,” said Drake University President Marty Martin. “She produces an infectious attitude of service and leadership that has spread from the basketball court to the rest of the world. We are honored to present Lisa with this award.” 

The Pillar of Character Award is The Ray Center’s highest honor. It is presented each spring to an individual who demonstrates good character as a role model and reflects former Governor Ray’s and Billie’s lifelong commitment to civility and character development. Past recipients include Norman Borlaug, Hayden Fry, Dan Gable, Fred Hoiberg, Shawn Johnson, and Dr. Peggy Whitson. 

For more information about An All-Star Evening, including how to purchase tickets, visit

About Lisa Bluder 
Lisa Bluder is in her 24th year as the P. Sue Beckwith, MD, Head Women’s Basketball Coach. The position was endowed in 2021 by P. Sue Beckwith, MD, one of UI athletics’ most generous supporters. Sue Beckwith was a four-year letter winner with Iowa Women’s Basketball (1976-1980) and has earned three UI degrees; 1980 BS, 1984 MD, and 2015 MBA. 

As the all-time winningest coach in program history, the Hawkeyes have advanced to 21 postseason appearances (17 NCAA and four WNIT) in 23 seasons, including NCAA Tournament berths in 13 of the last 15 seasons. Iowa advanced to the postseason in 15 consecutive seasons (13 NCAA and two WNIT) when a postseason tournament was held. The 2020 pandemic cut the 2019-20 season short, resulting in the sole missed tournament season. Bluder coached the 2022-23 Hawkeyes to her fourth Big Ten Tournament title with wins over Purdue, Maryland, and Ohio State.

About The Ray Center 
Our mission is to improve civility through character development and ethical leadership. Through public awareness and programming grounded in research, The Ray Center helps create strong, vibrant communities that value positive, healthy relationships and respectful behavior. As the global home to CHARACTER COUNTS!, our initiatives benefit people of all ages and are easily adaptable for families, schools, workplaces, athletic teams, and more.