Violet Palmer

Honorary Degrees

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Violet Palmer has smashed barriers and made her mark at every level of her basketball career. Whether it was helping to lead teams to national championships as part of the Bronco women’s basketball team in the 1980s or breaking barriers as the first woman to serve as a referee in the NBA, Ms. Palmer’s success has been guided by her determination and work ethic. 

The Compton native earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from California State Polytechnic, Pomona in 1988. She was a four-year letter winner at the university, where her team won NCAA Division II championships in 1985 and 1986. During her time as a Bronco, the team’s overall record was 107-20. The team had a 45-2 record in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. 

After graduating from college, Ms. Palmer worked for the Placentia Recreation Department where she refereed high school basketball games. She officiated her first Division I women’s basketball game in 1991.

In 1997, the WNBA was launched, and Ms. Palmer officiated the professional women’s basketball league’s inaugural season as well as  the WNBA championship in 1999. She joined the NBA’s referee training program in 1995, and proceeded to officiate 930 regular season games and nine playoff games as well as the 2014 All-Star game in New Orleans. 

She also officiated collegiate women’s games in the Pac-12, Western Athletic, West Coast, Big Sky and Big West conferences, as well as five NCAA Final Fours and two NCAA Championship games over her 19-year career. She retired from officiating in 2016 but continues to consult for the NBA and train new referees. Ms. Palmer is currently the coordinator of women’s basketball officials for the Pac-12, West Coast and Western Athletic conferences. 

Ms. Palmer remains committed to Cal Poly Pomona, meeting with the women’s basketball team annually and donating to the program every year. The Cal Poly Pomona Alumni Association recognized her as a 2016 Distinguished Alumni, and she was inducted into the Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020. 

In recognition of her contributions to collegiate and professional sports, her willingness to help open doors for others to follow in her footsteps and her continued commitment to the Bronco women’s basketball program, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona are proud to confer upon Violet Palmer the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.