Excellence in Education, Research
Professor Touches Countless Lives with Her Devotion to Exercise Physiolgy
Girls were excluded from scholastic sports
when Dr. Joyce Ballard was in high school,
but that did not prevent her from enjoying
a game of basketball or softball. In her
hometown of Cedar Springs, Mich., a
small community nestled amidst apple,
peach and cherry orchards, her family’s farm
was “headquarters’’ for neighborhood sports.
“I have one sister, Joanne, and I guess you
could say we were our dad’s boys. In school
there were no sports for girls, so my sister
was a cheerleader and dad always took us
to the games, even when the games were
farther away. And then, in our barn he put
up two baskets. Neighborhood kids would
come over and we’d play basketball out
there,’’ she recalled, adding that their front
lawn became a softball diamond when
friends stopped by on the way home from
school. They’d set up bases, choose sides
and play ball until sunset.
The fondness her father instilled in her for
sports and physical activity would provide
direction for her career.
Planning to become a mathematics
teacher, Dr. Ballard graduated from Spring
Arbor Junior College in Michigan and
transferred to Greenville College in
Illinois, which happened to offer sports for
girls. The math major enjoyed playing on
the basketball and softball teams and, as a
result, decided to take on physical education
as a second major.
She delved into the study of physical
activity and its impact on health, human
performance and quality of life, earning a
bachelor of education degree. She received
a master of arts degree in kinesiology, the
study of movement or exercise, from Kent
State University in Ohio and a doctorate in
exercise physiology and statistics from the
University of Illinois at Champaign-
Urbana in 1975.
For more than 30 years at The University of
Texas at Tyler, Dr. Ballard has impacted
countless lives with her passion for teaching
and conducting research in health and
In the UT Tyler classroom, Dr. Ballard
develops a close rapport with students as
she inspires, challenges and prepares them
for success in the health and kinesiology
professions. Her former students have
taken places across the nation as significant
leaders and contributors to the field.
And for her exceptional ability to engage
students in the learning experience, she has
received honors including the Chancellor’s
Council Outstanding Teaching Award, given
for excellence within The University of Texas
In addition to directing the thesis-related
research of her many graduate students, Dr.
Ballard has pursued an impressive line of
research related to bone mineral density. She
is among pioneer researchers in the study of
exercise as it relates to bone density and the
prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, a
disease that causes bones to lose mass and
When Dr. Ballard began her research 25
years ago, it was unknown if exercise in any
form would help prevent or treat the disease.
Dr. Ballard and other researchers have found
that weight-bearing exercise improves bone
health and plays an important role in the
prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
“Dr. Ballard is well-known for her extensive
research in osteoporosis,’’ said Dr. Linda
Klotz, dean of the UT Tyler College of
Nursing and Health Sciences. “She is
definitely a pioneer in terms of looking at
bone density in minority women and how
various factors that contribute to osteoporosis
in Caucasian women, who tend to be most
often studied, differ within minority populations.
She has followed osteoporosis in men
as well, which is very unique.’’
An osteoporosis prevention exercise class Dr.
Ballard developed for senior women in the
community has served as a basis for several
assessments in her research. Ongoing since
1985, the program has helped preserve the
quality of life for area seniors.
“There are some ladies in her osteoporosis
prevention exercise group who are now pretty
elderly, whose bone density is good because
they’ve been exercising with Dr. Ballard all
these years,’’ Dr. Klotz said. “And she is very
protective of them. They are very close after
all this time.’’
Dr. Ballard also keeps in touch with many of
her former students, including Dr. Mark
Loftin, professor and chair of the
Department of Health, Exercise and
Recreation Management at the University of
One of Dr. Ballard’s first graduate students,
Dr. Loftin said she was instrumental in his
becoming a professor and researcher.
“She is a magnificent teacher, very bright,
works well with students. Dr. Ballard guided
me along and basically introduced me to the
world of research,’’ said the Tyler native who
earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UT
Excellence in Education, Research Tyler.
“She had just finished her dissertation
and post-doc at the University of Illinois, and
her influence led me to going there for my
When Dr. Ballard visited Tyler State College
for the first time in May 1975, the main campus
was a former junior high school on North
Broadway Avenue, with education and psychology
programs located in a former Safeway
grocery store in downtown Tyler.
The college that would eventually become
UT Tyler did not look much like a college or
university then. But that did not matter to Dr.
Ballard, who was applying for a faculty position.
After visiting with Dr. Keith McCoy
about his plans for the Department of Health
and Physical Education, she decided Tyler
State was the place for her.
Trends were changing in the area of physical
fitness when Dr. McCoy began forming in
1973 what is now the UT Tyler Department
of Health and Kinesiology. Researchers were
making new scientific discoveries about the
positive effects of exercise and movement on
the human body. Americans were being
advised to change their sedentary ways
for the sake of wellness. Adult fitness and
prescriptive exercise programs were being
Dr.McCoy’s plans for the department included
a science-based curriculum with progressive minded
faculty and laboratory research
facilities to prepare students not only for
traditional physical education careers in
teaching and coaching but also for newly
emerging opportunities in clinical exercise
physiology, athletic training, corporate and
adult fitness, health care and research.
Exercise physiology, the study of the effects of
exercise on the body’s physiologic systems and
tissues, was emerging as an important direction
in the fitness field.
Dr. McCoy contacted the University of
Illinois in search of candidates to teach
exercise physiology at Tyler State. A leading edge,
research-based program, U of I’s
physical fitness department was producing
graduates who were making important
contributions to the field of exercise physiology.
“I called Dr. (B.H.) Massey at the University
of Illinois and asked if he knew of anyone who
would be good for the position,’’ Dr.McCoy
recalled. “He said he knew of a graduate who
would be a good fit for our program but he
didn’t believe that person would come to Tyler
State. And that was Dr. Ballard.’’
Dr. Ballard was working in a National
Institute of Health post-doctoral fellowship
with the U of I Children’s Research Center
and Physical Fitness Research Laboratory,
investigating issues concerning the use of
Ritalin to treat hyperactive children.
She already had declined a job offer to return
to a Pasadena, Calif., college, where she had
taught health and physical education before
pursuing her doctorate. But unlike the
prediction of her adviser, Dr. Massey, Dr.
Ballard accepted the opportunity to teach and
conduct research at Tyler State.
“They wanted me to come back out to
Pasadena, but I wouldn’t have had a chance to
do research there,’’ she said. “When I decided
to take the position here, I was really intrigued
because I could set up the exercise physiology
program, I could order the equipment … I
would be starting from scratch. And I could
teach in the area in which I had been trained,
I could do research. All of that was very
appealing to me.’’
Just as Planned
Tyler State evolved rapidly after its establishment
in 1971 as an upper-level institution. Its
named changed to Texas Eastern University
between the time of Dr. Ballard’s interview in
May 1975 and the signing of her teaching
contract that summer. The university relocated
to its current campus in 1976 and joined the
University of Texas System in 1979. UT Tyler
became a four-year institution accepting
freshmen and sophomores in 1998.
The health and physical education department
was moved to its own building in
January 1977. This was after one year in
which faculty offices were located on the third
floor of the Administration Building and the
department’s only classroom was located on
the first floor of the University Center. The
newly constructed Health and Physical
Education Building, adjacent to the
University Center, was a state-of-the-art learning
and research facility, just as Dr. McCoy
had planned, Dr. Ballard said.
“Our building was very unique in that it
was built around labs. There was an exercise
physiology lab with a chemistry lab, there was
a biomechanics lab, there was a motor
development lab. This was a new concept,
because most physical education programs
were only training teachers. They weren’t
doing research or anything very scientific at
that time,’’ she said.
“People who graduated from our program
were not only becoming public school
teachers, they also were assuming leadership
roles in areas such as adult fitness and exercise
for rehabilitation, which required a stronger
background in science.’’
UT Tyler’s graduate program attracted
students from across the United States and
beyond. “We had students from all over –
Massachusetts, Ohio, Alaska, Puerto Rico –
because we were one of the first schools to
have a more scientific-based program,’’ the
professor said of what was renamed the
Department of Health and Kinesiology in1990.
Her own niece came from Michigan to earn a
master of science in clinical exercise physiology
degree at UT Tyler. A 1996 graduate, Cindy Koerner works as an exercise physiologist at a
hospital in Lansing, Mich.
UT Tyler’s health and kinesiology department
moved in 2003 to its current location in the
Herrington Patriot Center’s Jean Lancaster
Academic Wing, which features first-class
biomechanics, motor behavior and exercise
physiology labs in addition to high-tech
The department has experienced significant
growth in student enrollment and the number
of undergraduate and graduate degree
programs offered. Its outstanding faculty
continues to provide cutting-edge programs
preparing students for success in professional
positions or in further studies in health and
Dr. Ballard is an important contributor to
She teaches both undergraduate and graduate
courses, and has overseen the thesis work of
graduate students throughout her tenure at
the university. Dr. Ballard has been on the
faculty since 1975, with the exception of three
years, when she taught at George Williams
College near Chicago. She returned to UT
Tyler in 1983.
“Our department was extremely active early
on, before many other schools, in terms of
student thesis work,’’ said Dr. McCoy. “Dr.
Ballard worked closely with those students,
involving them in research and taking them to
professional meetings where they gave
presentations. That was very strong for our
In addition to involving students in her osteoporosis
research, Dr. Ballard directed a Phase
III outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program
at the university for several years. The
program provided invaluable experience to
students and a vital service to local physicians
and their patients. She also has supervised her
students in clinical rotations in the community.
Dr. Ballard is very passionate about teaching,’’
Dr. McCoy said. “She relates well with students
and is dedicated to helping them reach
their potential. She has created great loyalty
among students, they highly respect her and I
believe she serves as a great model for them.’’
The Osteoporosis Question
In 1980, Dr. Ballard’s mother suffered a compression
fracture and was diagnosed with
osteoporosis. Dr. Ballard, who was then teaching
at George Williams, consulted with a physician
at the University of Illinois Medical Center
in Chicago about her mother’s condition.
“During our conversation, when he found
out that I was an exercise physiologist, he said,
‘We think that exercise might be helpful (in
the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis),
but we aren’t sure,’’ Dr. Ballard recalled. “He said, ‘We don’t know what kind of exercise or
how much or how little might help. You
ought to do some research on this.’ ’’
After returning to UT Tyler in 1983, Dr.
Ballard secured an internal grant to establish
the university’s Osteoporosis Research Project.
The professor placed ads with local print and
broadcast media, seeking postmenopausal
women ages 50 to 68, considered a high-risk
group for osteoporosis, to participate in bone
density studies. She signed up about 100 participants
and planned to take them to Texas
Women’s University in Denton for bone density
testing. “There was a new $20,000
machine that was manufactured for testing
bone density. The closest one to Tyler was at
Texas Women’s University,’’ Dr. Ballard said.
As it turned out, her group did not have to
travel to Denton. One of her participants
handed her a $20,000 contribution for the
purchase of a bone densitometer for UT Tyler.
The donor requested anonymity.
“When she came to be tested, she handed me
an envelope and asked that I not open it until
she left. So I waited, and then I went into my
office, sat down and opened the envelope. I’ll
never forget it. I just sat there in a trance. I
couldn’t believe what was in that envelope. So
that’s how I got started in osteoporosis
research,’’ she said, adding that the Tyler community
has been very supportive of her work.
UT Tyler became the only facility in East
Texas equipped to test bone mineral density.
In addition to testing participants in her studies,
Dr. Ballard also accepted patient referrals from
area physicians for the first couple of years,
until a Tyler hospital became equipped to do
so. Bone mineral density testing for Dr.
Ballard’s studies has been conducted at The
University of Texas Health Science Center at
Tyler since 1993, when the two institutions
partnered to purchase a DEXA scanner for
measuring bone density.
Dr. Ballard began examining the effects of
exercise on bone density in 1985, after completing
preliminary studies. She met with her
participants three days a week on campus for
a time of walking and light weightlifting. The
professor continued the regimen over a five-year
period, retesting her participants’ bone density
every six months and comparing them to
control groups that did not follow the regime.
“A group of women who swam at the YWCA
wanted to be tested. I told them to keep swimming
and I would monitor them as I was
monitoring the walkers. I didn’t know if walking
was going to help; maybe swimming
would be the best thing,’’ Dr. Ballard said.
“The study showed that walking and lifting
light weights – weight-bearing activity – was
helpful in reducing the risk of bone loss.
Swimming doesn’t do much for bone density,
because it doesn’t put stress on the bones.’’
Dr. Ballard was among researchers finding
that weight-bearing exercise – activities that
increased the force of gravity against bones –
helped preserve bone mass. Weight-bearing
activities include walking, hiking, jogging,
stair-climbing, tennis and dancing.
Swimming and bicycling are examples of nonweight-
Her osteoporosis prevention exercise group,
which includes some of her longtime study
participants, continues to meet three days a
week at UT Tyler. The format, based on her
research, includes walking and floor exercises.
“We walk about 40 minutes and some of
them do just a little bit of weightlifting, and
then we do 30 minutes of floor exercise. We
do stretching and extension type exercises to
keep spinal muscles strong and exercises for
abdominal muscles that support the pelvis.
Our program is really quite vigorous, considering
that many of the participants are in their
mid- to late 70s and some are over 80 now,’’
the professor said.
“It’s been a win-win situation,’’ Dr. Ballard
said, adding, “They think that I have kept
them active and that I’m responsible for their
good health, but I tell them I just keep the
class going. I don’t come to their houses every
day and get them to come over here. They are
very dedicated about coming.’’
In addition to evaluating the role of physical
activity on bone density, Dr. Ballard has examined
bone density in diverse populations,
including Caucasian pre- and postmenopausal
women and elderly men, African
American postmenopausal women and, mostly
recently, Hispanic pre- and postmenopausal
women. She also has studied medications
affecting bone density; the role of exercise on
fall prevention; and cervical spine bone density
in women with chronic neck pain.
Dr. Ballard has publications in numerous
scientific refereed journals, including the
Journal of the American Medical Association,
Journal of Aging and Physical Activity and the
International Journal of Sports Medicine. She
also has made professional conference presentations
at scientific meetings across the nation.
“I’ve been impressed by how many areas Dr.
Ballard has investigated in regards to
osteoporosis,’’ said UTHSCT radiologist and
associate professor Dr. David Di Paolo,
who assists her in the interpretation of bone
“I did some lecturing on the topic of the
DEXA examination and osteoporosis and
needed to get more information in preparation
for those talks. I was impressed with how
many times I would come across Dr. Ballard’s
name when I was going through research
literature,’’ Dr. Di Paolo said.
“And it wasn’t just the same study or the same
population group. You could tell she had a
very inquiring mind, looking at various areas.
One study looked at fall prevention, other
studies examined bone density in women,
men and different ethnic groups...Dr. Ballard
has added to what we now know about
osteoporosis in many different ways.’’
- President's Letter
- Around Campus
- Focus on: Faculty
- Focus on: Alumni
- Focus on: Benefactors
- Focus on: Students
- Patriot Athletics Season Highlights
- Class Notes