Barbara Lee Drinkwater

She was bold, tough, regal, and made us all stand taller.

Barbara Lee Drinkwater, a trailblazer in the fight for the equality of women and a hero to countless pets and their owners, died September 30, 2019.

Born on November 18, 1926, in Plainfield, New Jersey, Barbara was a remarkable influence on so many people in so many different ways. Having achieved her doctorate from Purdue University in exercise physiology, Barbara pioneered research in the field of women’s athletics. She was integral in identifying the seriousness of a medical condition known as the Female Athlete Triad and the need for mandatory education regarding its effects.

Outside of her professional life, Barbara engaged in a diverse group of physical activities. Among her many pursuits, she was a camp counselor, a multifaceted sports coach, a scuba instructor, and an avid rock hound. She held her commercial small aircraft pilot’s license, and later in life, discovered the game of golf. She actively chased that small white ball into her 90s.

Barbara was a great leader and mentor. She became the first female president of the American College of Sports Medicine, was a founding member of WomenSport International, and participated as a member of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission. In 2014 Barbara’s work was recognized by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition as a recipient of the council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

After moving to Vashon Island in 1983 and resuming her research at the University of Washington and the Pacific Medical Center, in 1984 Barbara recognized the need for an organization to address the homeless pet population on Vashon. From this was born the beloved animal rescue group known as Vashon Island Pet Protectors or VIPP. Starting from the homes of a few volunteers, VIPP has become a thriving no-kill animal shelter, having rescued and assisted thousands of animals since its founding.

Barbara was bold, tough, regal, and made us all stand taller. She leaves countless friends and colleagues who recognize the exceptional impact she has had on their professional and personal lives. Contributions in her memory may be made to the ACSM Barbara Drinkwater Research Fund ( or to Vashon Island Pet Protectors (

A memorial service for Barbara will be held on Wednesday, November 6, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Burton Lodge.