Coach Shirley Luhtala was affiliated with Mesa Community College Athletics for 34 years. As the first Physical Education Instructor ever hired by MCC in 1968, Coach Luhtala was solely responsible for the gift of Dr. Kaye McDonald, the Athletic Department’s first Athletic Director. Mesa Legend columnist Brad Brown once wrote that Dr. McDonald helped lay the foundation for the program. That being the case, Coach Luhtala was the developer of the entire department. As the Athletics Department grew, Coach Luhtala took over head coaching duties of the first women’s softball team in 1974 as well as head coach of field hockey.
Coach Luhtala graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1954 and while in college, she played professional baseball in the All American Women’s Baseball League for the Rockford Peaches. Coach Luhtala played 1st Base for those Peaches, which the movie “A League of Their Own” was loosely structured after. Coach Luhtala was never a fan of the movie stating “it was not anything like to movie made it out to be.” That’s Hollywood though.
Nevertheless, Coach Luhtala made enough money to pay for her college education and eventually taught school.
Coach Luhtala was also the Advisor for the Pom and Cheer Squads from 1965-1968. The full-time MCC faculty member from 1965-1992, Luhtala scaled down to half-time from 1992-1998. She won the Maricopa County Community Colleges Distinguished Service Award in every year from 1965-1992. She also won the MCC Appreciation Award for years of service to students and the college in 1992. In 1984, Coach Luhtala received an award for her continued support of the MCC Scholarship Program, a program she is most proud. In 2002, she received the Faculty Emeritus Award.