Fern L. Spencer is Hopi from the Water clan and Navajo from the Honeycomb and Towering House clans and lives in Tohatchi, NM. She recently retired after 49 years in education and coaching at Tohatchi High School.
Spencer was born in Phoenix, AZ. She was a 1968 graduate of Gallup High School. She attended Western New Mexico University in Silver City, NM. She walked on to the team at a time when there was six person basketball for women. By the end of her time at the university women’s basketball transitioned to five person basketball.
When she received her first teaching job in 1974, she was asked if she was interested in coaching the girls’ basketball team. She accepted and taught for 49 years including 37 years coaching basketball and ten years in cross country. During that time she accumulated 517 wins and the team were 1982 New Mexico State Runner Up and earned six district titles, six trips to state, eight All Star teams, and coached the NM All Stars in Australia 2006.
Spencer was named the 2004 New Mexico Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. She received a plaque for coaching 400 wins in 2003 when she received the New Mexico Girls Basketball Coach of the Year award. She also received honors as 2006 Athletic Director of the Year, 2014 New Mexico High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, 2019 National Federation of Coaches Hall of Fame and 2023 New Mexico High School Distinguished Service Award. She was named to the Navajo Times Hall of Fame and coached games between New Mexico and Arizona after the season ended from 1990 to 1994.
Spencer was also President of the New Mexico High School Coaches Association and the New Mexico Athletic Directors Association. She is also the current vice-president for the All-Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Native American Rodeo Historical Society.
She had a great experience coaching student athletes and her philosophy has been academics first then athletics.