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Josie Harper Retiring As Director of Athletics and Recreation

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Josie Harper     By Dartmouth
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HANOVER, N.H. Josie Harper, Dartmouth’s Director of Athletics and Recreation since July 2002 and a member of the athletics staff for nearly 27 years, today announced her retirement effective June 30. She was the first woman to hold this position at any of the Ivy League schools.

“Josie Harper and I have worked together for many years,” stated Dartmouth President James Wright, “and it was my pleasure to appoint her Director of Athletics in 2002. In that capacity she has provided strong, distinguished leadership for an area of Dartmouth that has one of the highest student participation rates on campus and is deeply important to a great many members of the Dartmouth family. Throughout her career, as a coach and an administrator, both at Dartmouth and elsewhere, Josie has distinguished herself as one of those who educate men and women through athletics and help them fulfill their potential within and outside their sports. We will miss her greatly and wish her a wonderful retirement.”

Dartmouth’s seventh Director of Athletics and Recreation, Harper, 65, has presided during a time of tremendous growth and facility upgrades. During her tenure, two new venues were established in Chase Field with an artificial turf for field hockey and a natural grass field which opened this past fall, and the Burnham Soccer Field and Sports Pavilion which debuted in 2007 as the home of Big Green soccer. The Floren Varsity House was completed in 2007, featuring a 10,000-square foot strength training center, a 130-seat “smart classroom,” meeting rooms, a study room for the entire athletics department, football locker facilities, and offices for football, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse. In 2005, the Corey Ford Rugby Cluhouse, a 6,000-square foot structure for both the men’s and women’s teams, was completed and considered by many a facility unmatched in collegiate athletics.

There have been several facelifts as well with the installment of FieldTurf for football at Memorial Field in 2006 and the renovation of the East Stands. The baseball stadium was completely overhauled this past summer and fall, and is now Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park with a FieldTurf surface, expansive dugouts, batting cages, bullpens, a new scoreboard and press box, and chair-back seating for 650 spectators with the ability to add more than 1,000 temporary seats along the first- and third-baselines. A 14,000-square foot fitness center opened after renovations to Alumni Gymnasium in 2006 as well, the most centralized fitness area in the Ivy League that serves all Dartmouth students. Also, FieldTurf was installed in Scully-Fahey Field this past year, and Leede Arena was resurfaced in 2007.

“This really is a perfect conjunction of events that make this the right time to retire,” Harper commented after her announcement to the athletics staff this morning. “The capital campaign is coming to an end this December, a new president will be appointed, and I feel the department is in solid shape I am proud of what we have accomplished together but know there is much to be done. I have very strong emotions at this time, for Dartmouth College and in particular Dartmouth Athletics, having built many relationships over the years. But a good coach knows when to call timeout and when to make a substitution! This is simply the right time to do this.”

“Josie has been such an important part of the fabric of this community that it is hard to imagine her not being here,” said Chris Wielgus, Dartmouth’s women’s basketball head coach. “She rode the wave of women's athletics, and what I will miss most personally is that Josie, being a coach at heart, she understood coaching and, more importantly, she understood Dartmouth. Not only was she our boss, but she was also a resource for all the coaches. I will miss her candor and insights.”

“Josie has been a strong presence and valued colleague in the Ivy League since her days of vying for Ivy championships as a women’s lacrosse coach,” asserted Carolyn Campbell-McGovern, Senior Associate Director of the Ivy League. “Her vast experience and sense of humor made her ideally suited to take on the challenges and opportunities associated with serving as the first female Director of Athletics in our history. Josie’s voice as a champion of coaches and student-athletes has had a significant impact on Ivy League athletics, and we’ll miss her.”

Harper is an award-winning and nationally recognized figure. She was named the National Association of College Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) Division I-AA Administrator of the Year in 2000, then was honored as the ECAC Female Athletic Administrator of the Year the following year. In 2005, she was the recipient of the Katherine Ley Award, presented by the ECAC in recognition of her leadership and advocacy for women coaches and administrators. Then in November of 2006, Harper was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Harper joined the Dartmouth athletics staff in 1981 when she was hired as the women’s lacrosse head coach. In 11 seasons as the coach, she led her teams to an overall record of 88-69 and 37-28 in the Ivy League. Harper led the team to its first Ivy League Championships in 1986 and 1987, the ECAC Championship in 1988 and to the NCAA Tournament in 1983.

Not only was Harper a respected collegiate coach, but she was also prominent on the national and international levels as well. In 1986, she coached the U.S. World Cup team, and in 1982 she assisted with the U.S. team that won the world championship in England.

In 1987, Harper assumed additional responsibilities as Assistant Director of Athletics before being promoted to Associate Director of Athletics in 1990. She relinquished her coaching duties in 1992 to focus on her full-time administrative role, and in June 1999 was promoted to Senior Associate Director of Athletics. Three years later she earned her appointment as Director of Athletics and Recreation.

“I have a tremendous respect for Josie, especially for her work in the trenches as a coach,” Dartmouth men’s hockey head coach Bob Gaudet noted. “To have an athletics director who was a Hall of Fame coach brings about a great amount of credibility to the position with the staff, and that cannot be underestimated. Her empathy for the coaches and the issues we deal with has made her a wonderful leader. She built a terrific legacy with the improvements to all of our facilities, and she has fostered a truly family atmosphere. Dartmouth is a great place to work thanks to her efforts.”

“Having only arrived at Dartmouth a year ago, I’ve had only that year to work with Josie Harper,” Dean of the College Tom Crady said. “But that has been time enough to appreciate her talent and skills as an athletics administrator as well as her devotion to the students and coaches she oversees and her dedication to Dartmouth. I would have liked to have a little longer to enjoy Josie’s contributions and company, but I understand her decision and wish her all the best.

“After Josie leaves at the end of June, I plan to appoint an interim Director of Athletics to serve for a year while a new Dartmouth president gets settled in, and during that time we will begin a search. I expect to announce the interim director in a month or two.”

Honored by Dartmouth in 1999 as a “Wearer of the Green” for her achievements in coaching at the national and international level, Harper is an adopted member of the Dartmouth class of 1947.