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M. Grace Calhoun ’92 named vice president of athletics

Calhoun, current director of athletics and recreation at Penn, is first athletics head hired to cabinet-level position

M. Grace Calhoun ’92 was named a new vice president of athletics and recreation March 5 according to an email to the Brown community from President Christina Paxson ’P19. The decision comes a month after former Athletics Director Jack Hayes’ departed his post Feb. 5, ending a national search for his replacement. Calhoun is the current director of athletics and recreation at Penn, and will begin her position at Brown April 19.

Previously, the head of athletics has been a directorship, reporting to the Division of Campus Life. Now, as a vice-presidential role, the head of athletics will report directly to the Office of the President.

“The difference between a director position that reports to Campus Life and a vice president position that reports to me means that (Calhoun) will be involved in continuous conversations about all aspects of life at the University,” Paxson told The Herald. “Grace formed very strong relationships between athletics and academics while at Penn, and with this University-wide purview, she will be able to build those connections and programs at Brown.”

Calhoun also spoke to the importance of integrating athletics into the Brown community at large, to "ensure that there's a good feeling of a partnership and understanding that strong athletics and recreation only complements those higher degrees of distinction that Brown is achieving through its overall strategic plan,” she said in an interview with The Herald.

Once she begins her tenure on College Hill this spring, Calhoun’s first priority as vice president of athletics will be strengthening programs’ recruiting power. “My top priority right now is to learn as much as I can from the athletic community, campus community and alumni, about how we move Brown Athletics and Recreation forward,” Calhoun said. “You have to take the core strengths of each institution and figure out what the unique value proposition is that makes the best student athletes want to come to Brown … to create even more successful programs. It’s a lot of talking with stakeholders to get some quick momentum to build off of the excellence that Brown already has throughout the University.”

Calhoun has worked in athletics administration since 1993 and most recently served seven years as director of athletics for Penn. Under her leadership, the Quakers have won 27 Ivy League and conference championships across 16 different sports, three individual national titles and three national runner-up team finishes. She also facilitated partnerships between Penn athletics and  graduate institutions, including an athletic leadership program through the Wharton School of Business and a sports performance optimization program with Penn Medicine.

Calhoun previously represented Brown as a member of the track and field team, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1992. She went on to achieve a master’s degree in exercise and sports sciences and a PhD in higher education administration from the University of Florida, as well as an MBA from Lehigh University.

“It is great to welcome Grace back to Brown,” Eileen Goldgeier ’85, Brown’s vice president and general counsel, who co-headed the athletics hiring committee, said in a University news release. “Grace has a proven track record in her career, having succeeded at every level of athletics administration. Her pursuit of excellence is unmatched in the Ivy League. She is the right leader at the right time for Brown.”

Calhoun was elected Chair of the NCAA Division I Council in 2019 and has been lauded by conference directors for her leadership throughout the logistical challenges of fielding sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the news release.

“I’ve talked to athletes who are not getting much joy from (their sport) right now,” Paxson said. “So my hope is that with Grace Calhoun coming in, conversations can really be started about what the future of Brown athletics looks like, and how we can do better than we have done in the past. Without Ivy competition this spring, turning the conversation to what’s ahead will be a great thing.”

“I want the broad Brown community, meaning not only athletes and coaches but all students and faculty, to be really proud of what we do in athletics and recreation,” Paxson said. “That goes beyond just winning, it goes to people recognizing that athletics and recreation makes a very positive impact on the entire community.”

Brown’s varsity athletes will be invited to a Zoom conference to meet Calhoun Monday evening, where she hopes to emphasize transparency and open communication. “What I'm going to tell (the athletes) is that we are committed to very open and transparent communication. We will always tell them as much as we can and ask for their help in giving us their perspective on how we move forward,” Calhoun said. “Because, at the end of the day it's about delivering high quality experiences, and the student athletes always have the best insights as to what's going to make for the best experiences.”



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