Spelman Johnson Recruits Athletic Director for Connecticut College

September 18, 2019 – Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Following a competitive national search, Spelman Johnson has placed Maureen White as the next director of athletics and chair of physical education at Connecticut College.

As the first woman to serve as director of athletics at the school, Ms. White will take the helm “at a pivotal moment in the evolution of the athletics program,” the school said in a letter to the campus community.

“We are very fortunate to have found in Mo White a talented leader with the skills, values and experience to take our athletics program to the next level of excellence,” said Katherine Bergeron, president of Connecticut College.

Ms. White joins the school with extensive experience in athletics marketing, consulting and higher education. As an athlete, coach, faculty member and administrator, she has twice before served as a director of athletics, developing highly competitive programs at two institutions. She joined Connecticut College last fall as assistant director of athletics for business operations to lead a review of the school’s athletics operations and to design new approaches for funding the department. Since that time, she has had a transformative effect on athletics, Mr. Bergeron said, noting that one of the goals of the “college’s strategic plan, ‘Building on Strength,’ is to heighten the competitiveness, success and integration of the college’s athletics programs.”

Ms. White previously served as director of athletics and chair of the department of physical education at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. During her tenure at the academy, she reorganized the department, developing an inclusive team approach that led to greater equity across programs. Before that, Ms. White served in a variety of roles at Mitchell College, including head men’s tennis coach, assistant professor for business and professional studies, department chair for sport management and physical education, and director of athletics.

“In Mo White, Connecticut College has selected an accomplished and veteran leader,” said Andrea Savage, executive director of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. “She brings a breadth of experience in higher education as a professor, coach and administrator committed to the well-being of student-athletes and to developing programs to achieve success.”

Pairing Leaders with Top Academic Posts

Connecticut College is a member of the NCAA Division III and the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).  There are 28 varsity sports programs, 15 for women, 12 for men and a coed sailing team.  Sports for both genders include basketball, cross country, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, squash, swimming, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field, and water polo.  There are women’s varsity programs in field hockey, sailing and volleyball.

Odgers Berndtson Finds Athletic Director for Colorado College
Universities continue to turn to executive search firms to find new athletic directors. Global search firm Odgers Berndtson recently placed Lesley Irvine as vice president and director of athletics at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO. 

Spelman Johnson is based in Easthampton, MA. Established in 1991, the search firm has helped hundreds of academic institutions identify professionals, pairing leaders with positions across all facets of colleges and universities. Other searches that the firm is conducting include: director of admission at Randolph College, executive director for the National Association for Campus Activities and chief financial officer and corporate secretary for the Georgia Tech Foundation.

Athletic Directors

Athletic directors are playing an increasingly vital role at colleges and universities across the country. With the expansion of athletic departments and, for the larger schools, the infusion of big dollars for sports, more schools have turned to search firms when such positions become open. Too much is at stake, they feel, to go it alone. What’s more, the AD job has come to demand greater business and management skills than the typical academic search.

“The AD today is the CEO of athletic operations at a college,” said John Lahey, current president at Quinnipiac University. “Thirty to 40 years ago, you were more likely to see former coaches and athletes promoted into those roles as a way of rewarding success or longevity, but now you need a business person who is able to lead people, generate revenue and understand how the marketing and brand of athletics can impact the entire university.”

Bill Lennox, president at St. Leo University in Florida, said schools must make sure that the AD is a senior member of the entire university staff. “We moved the AD to the equivalent level of a vice president, so he sat in all of the meetings and in the decision-making process with the rest of the VPs of the university,” he said.

The modern AD position oversees finances, marketing, human resources, student-athlete wellness, media contracts, and of course overall performance – all while salaries head well into seven figures and beyond.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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