Green Bay Director of Athletics Mary Ellen Gillespie has been appointed to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. She will begin her five-year term Sept. 1, becoming the first administrator in the history of the Horizon League to serve on the selection committee. “This is fantastic recognition for UW-Green Bay and Phoenix Athletics,” Chancellor Gary L. Miller said, “and it’s the strongest possible affirmation of Mary Ellen’s leadership and her commitment to student athletes.” The 10-member committee is charged with elevating the game of women’s basketball and providing a first-rate championship experience for student-athletes, coaches and fans.
When Mary Ellen Gillespie became UW-Green Bay’s first female athletic director — and one of just 28 women of 346 ADs in Division I — she downplayed the significance of gender and focused on fit.
Responding to questions from members of the news media, Gillespie would tell them she was the best person for the job, plain and simple. She just wasn’t comfortable talking about the gender aspect of her hire, she said Thursday (Nov. 6) during her After Thoughts address before a packed Grand Foyer at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.
“But I had some women colleagues who were in the AD chair say, ‘Mary Ellen, take a step back,’ ” Gillespie said. “ ‘You have an obligation and a responsibility to help women. … So own it, be proud of it, don’t be afraid to talk about it’ — one, in tribute to the women who paved the way before me, but also (for) the women who are coming up behind me.”
It was a shift in approach perhaps befitting Gillespie’s journey to the chair, which took her from saying “it’s never going to happen because I’m a woman” to accepting the top job at UW-Green Bay in fall of 2013. Along the way, she had to build experience, harness a competitive nature, assemble a great team of people who would be in her corner, and learn to be her own advocate.
“These folks got my name out to other people because I learned to advocate for myself,” Gillespie said. “I always tell young people, if you don’t advocate for yourself, nobody else will.”
Gillespie’s journey took her from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh to the University of Iowa and then the North American Intrafraternity Conference, based in Indianapolis. She served as director of development for Purdue University’s schools of Nursing and Health Sciences before her most recent gig as associate athletics director for external relations at Bowling Green State University. She took a somewhat unconventional path to the chair, she says — but solid experience in student life, academics, fundraising and working with the community help her understand the entire institution of which athletics is a part.
“I look very different on paper from a traditional athletic director,” Gillespie said. “But I know how an institution works. And you have to work with the entire institution if you want a strong athletic department.”
Since coming to UW-Green Bay, Gillespie has faced her share of challenges — in 11 months, for example, Athletics has replaced 21 individuals in a staff of 56. But there also have been successes, such as one-quarter of the University’s Division I teams — four of 16 — winning Horizon League titles last season. And while Gillespie said much of her first year was akin to “drinking water out of a fire hydrant” (now a more manageable “fire hose,” she notes), it’s all been worth it. UW-Green Bay’s 247 student athletes make it so.
“(It’s about) 18-to -22 year-olds — changing lives and building leaders,” she said. “And that is why I do what I do.”
The Green Bay women’s soccer team will open up the 2014 season this weekend with a pair of home games at Santaga Stadium. Green Bay will face IUPUI for the season-opener on Fri., Aug. 22, at 4 p.m. and will then play host to Ball State at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 24. The program is billing the halftime entertainment Friday as the Ice Bucket Challenge involving UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary Miller and Director of Athletics Mary Ellen Gillespie.
Chicago State University athletic director Dan Schumacher has resigned and plans to take the same job at NCAA Division III University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Schumacher was one of five finalists to succeed Ken Bothof last fall as Phoenix athletics director. For more information.
We see that Green Bay Athletics has posted all of Saturday’s big news involving awards and honors at commencement, and more: Coach and Academic Coordinator Mike Kline receiving the Chancellor’s Award… Summa cum laude Human Biology grad Nicole Will of the women’s cross country team earning Outstanding Student honors for the graduating class… Four softball players having their diplomas presented by AD Mary Ellen Gillespie before their NCAA tournament game in Minneapolis… And hoops star Alec Brown earned attention for his last-minute flight to make the ceremony and become the final graduating senior to receive a degree from Chancellor Tom Harden. Anyway, the full list of all the fine May 2014 UW-Green Bay graduates who have also played NCAA Division I sports for the school:
Alec Brown, Men’s Basketball, Business Administration
Gabrielle Cassady, Softball, Business Administration
Ellen Joppe, Women’s Soccer, Business Administration
Sabrina Marunowski, Volleyball, Business Administration
Leah Poel, Volleyball, Business Administration
Stephen Wagner, Men’s Cross Country, Business Administration
Chanel Aries, Women’s Soccer, Communication
Paul Choudoir, Men’s Nordic Skiing, Communication
Brittany Groth, Volleyball, Communication
Jonathan Lesniak, Men’s Swimming, Communication
Monica Anderson, Volleyball, Democracy and Justice Studies
Shannon Butts, Softball, Democracy and Justice Studies
Tyler Evans, Men’s Swimming, Design Arts
Edward Gurney, Men’s Nordic Skiing, Economics
Kelly Baron, Women’s Swimming, Education
Stacey Butts, Softball, Education
Lindsy Cook, Women’s Cross Country, Education
Taylor Trelka, Women’s Swimming, Education, Social Work
Paul Malcore, Men’s Cross Country, English
Wayne Clark, Men’s Nordic Skiing, History
Melissa Killpatrick, Women’s Swimming, History
Maria Anderson, Women’s Tennis, Human Biology
Carrie Dinelli, Women’s Diving, Human Biology
Jenna Harrington, Women’s Soccer, Human Biology
Jacki Johnson, Women’s Golf, Human Biology
Katie Mroczenski, Volleyball, Human Biology
Miranda Reinke, Softball, Human Biology
Renee Therrien, Women’s Soccer, Human Biology
Nicole Will, Women’s Cross Country, Human Biology
Lyndsay Zabkowicz, Volleyball, Human Biology
Hailey Feltz, Women’s Nordic Skiing, Human Development, Psychology
Breannah Ranger, Women’s Basketball, Human Development
Allison Goecks, Softball, Psychology
Sam Zastrow, Women’s Basketball, Social Work
UW-Green Bay Athletic Director Mary Ellen Gillespie is gracing the cover of YOU magazine this month, in an issue that hit newsstands on March 19. The cover story offers insights into Gillespie’s path to becoming UW-Green Bay’s first female AD, and gives readers a look at her crazy-busy life. Being the first woman to hold the post is significant, but Gillespie doesn’t feel it comes with additional pressure, she said. “I take it seriously because there’s a small group of us,” she said. “Fortunately that’s been changing a little bit. There’s been several women over the past year to 18 months who’ve been hired into Division I athletic director roles. They are people I’ve looked up to, people who have mentored me. For me the pressure is I want to make that group of people proud, those who helped me get to where I am. I think it’s great that more and more women are getting involved in athletic administration. I’m incredibly honored to be part of that.” You can read the full story by clicking the link here, and copies of YOU are available at Festival Foods, Kavarna, Baylake Bank, The Ultimate Closet and other locations, in addition to the lobby of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
She won’t begin her new job until Dec. 2, but Mary Ellen Gillespie drew plenty of media attention earlier this week with her first visit to campus since being named the new director of intercollegiate athletics for UW-Green Bay.
Green Bay Athletics has archived the Horizon League Network video of the news conference.
Broadcast coverage by local station Fox 11 noted that Gillespie is the first female AD in school history, and she’s signing on with a program that ranks below the midpoint of Horizon league schools when it comes to money for its athletic programs.
“We have great student athletes, we have great coaches, we have great success here, we have a good tradition, so we have to get out and tell that story,” said Gillespie. “We can’t just expect people to open up their checkbooks. They have to see it. So we need them to come and see us and watch us, and then that relationship starts, and hopefully they’ll start to support.”
WBAY-TV 2 observed that, at Bowling Green, where Gillespie worked previously as associate athletics director, she led a team that achieved record fundraising goals
In a news release at Bowling Green State University, she thanked the University and its AD, Chris Kingston, for the opportunity.
Mary Ellen Gillespie, the associate athletics director for Bowling Green State University who was just named the new AD at UW-Green Bay, met the media Tuesday (Oct. 22), answering questions and outlining her philosophy of college athletics.
“Today is a dream come true,” she said in her opening remarks. “I am honored and humbled by the opportunity.”
Gillespie was introduced by Chancellor Tom Harden, who said the selection committee was impressed by her people skills, her record as a relationship builder and her capacity to engage new supporters and resources. Gillespie said she was attracted to UW-Green Bay in part by the school’s size and atmosphere — similar to her undergraduate alma mater, SUNY-Plattsburgh — and the philosophies shared by Harden and others that student success comes first, and that intercollegiate athletics can be a valuable element in promoting a university’s brand and its academic and service mission. The new AD answered a question about her short-range objectives by saying, “Looking, listening and learning. I don’t know what I don’t know.”
She thanked previous director Ken Bothof for building a solid department, adding, “Nothing is broken here.” Gillespie also expressed appreciation for those who have supported her career, and she shared a sizeable list of friends, family, mentors and colleagues in higher education and intercollegiate athletics.
Gillespie outlines four general priorities
In her statement at Tuesday’s news conference, new Phoenix AD Mary Ellen Gillespie outlined her four top priorities for the program. The No. 1 constant, she said, would be the success of student athletes in building life skills, achieving academic goals and graduating. Second, she said, would be maintaining the integrity of the program with respect to the University, the Horizon League and the NCAA. Third, she said UW-Green Bay Athletics should field competitive teams — “We want to win, and win the right way.” Finally, Gillespie said, the program needs to grow its resource base and maximize various revenue streams.
Photos: Gillespie meets the press
We have a slideshow up showing the scene at Tuesday morning’s news conference where Mary Ellen Gillespie was introduced to the local broadcast media as UW-Green Bay’s new athletics director. See photos.
Mary Ellen Gillespie was welcomed as UW-Green Bay’s new Athletics Director at a 10 a.m. news conference Tuesday (Oct. 22) at the Kress Events Center. Introduced by Chancellor Tom Harden, the former Bowling Green associate athletics director took to the lectern to briefly outline her philosophy of higher education and Division I athletics, and to answer questions from radio and TV reporters. Afterwards she greeted coaches, staff members and friends of the Phoenix program who were in attendance. Read more.