Jessie Rand Tanner was born (August 30, 1873) & raised in the state of New York, the only child of Alonzo E. Tanner and Mary L. Rand. Alonzo worked as a hardware merchant. Jessie received her Bachelor’s degree and Teaching Diploma from Columbia University and graduated from the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics.
Jessie Rand Tanner (served 1904-1936) was appointed to the San Diego Normal School faculty as the first Physical Education specialist in 1904.
Jessie taught a variety of physical education courses and was named the first Head of the Department of Physical Education by 1914. She served as Head until 1928. She continued her teaching in the department and was Director of Physical Education for Women until retirement.
Miss Tanner co-authored with colleague Georgia V. Coy what is thought to be the first publication of the Department of Physical Education in December 1914 titled “Physical Exercises, Games and Simple Folk Dances for Elementary School”, published by the California State Printing Office. She also authored a book in 1929 titled “A Game Program in Physical Education: for the Elementary School and the Junior High School”, published by Ginn and Company.
She also gave exemplary service as faculty advisor/director of the Women’s Athletic Association, achieving charter status in 1923. This made sports participation possible for all women on campus, in accordance with rules of the national organization, Athletic Conference of American College Women.
Jessie had a long and distinguished career at San Diego State that spanned over 30 years, beginning at the Normal School, through the years as State Teacher’s College, and into the first couple of years of San Diego State College. She retired in 1936.
After retirement she lived for another 30 years, passing away on January 19, 1966 in Los Angeles. She remained single her entire life.
From the book Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State written by Seth Mallios:
“Miss Jessie Rand Tanner, the driving force behind a more competitive women’s athletic program at SDNS”
“Not only did she introduce tennis and basketball to the Lady Normalites, she cleverly offered a white sleeve band embossed with a brilliant gold letter “S” to any female student who practiced gymnastics for one hour a week; this was State’s first varsity letter for women.”
“Tanner worked diligently to make women’s crew more athletic and less social, which led the less competitive crews to reorganize as sororities between 1923 and 1925.”
“In addition, she successfully championed an effort to bring the nationally established Women’s Athletic Association to campus in 1923.”
“Despite these strides, she still adhered to the established norms of San Diego State and the region, which restricted female athletes from competing against women from other schools.”