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Magazine cover for July - August 2020 issue.

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Erin McDermott Announced as Harvard’s First Woman Athletic Director


Erin McDermott

Erin McDermott
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, Harvard University

Erin McDermott
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, Harvard University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Claudine Gay announced this afternoon that Erin McDermott will become the University’s new Nichols Family Athletic Director, the first woman to fill the role in Harvard history.

McDermott will begin at Harvard on July 1, 2020, succeeding Robert L. Scalise, who has held the position since 2001. 

“From the first moments of my conversation with Erin, I knew that I had found in her the partner I was seeking and the leader that Harvard needs for its next century of success in athletics,” wrote Gay in her announcement of the appointment. “Steeped in Ivy League principles, fundamentally committed to student-athlete success, and driven by her values, Erin is someone who has formed a deep appreciation of Harvard and its place in the Ivy League, as well as the things that make the experience we create for our student-athletes unique.”

McDermott will arrive at Harvard after seven years as director of athletics and recreation at the University of Chicago, where she oversaw 20 intercollegiate and 40 club sports. In her time there, the Maroons have earned 17 University Athletic Association championships and seven individual event championships. That success was noteworthy for a school with a not-so-athletic reputation. “If [our athletes] are going to commit the kind of time that they do to their sport, then we should be good at it,” McDermott once told The Chicago Maroon. “If we’re going to be at a place that is a place of eminence and of excellence, then we should be reflective of that.” The university also added women’s lacrosse under McDermott’s leadership—the first varsity sport added in 30 years—and secured its first department-wide apparel agreement with Adidas.

This is not McDermott’s first stint in the Ivy League. Prior to her Chicago tenure, she served as deputy director of athletics at Princeton and oversaw recruiting and eligibility for 28 varsity sports at Columbia. 

A former athlete herself, McDermott served as team captain of Hofstra’s basketball team and won the school’s scholar-athlete award as a senior. After earning a bachelor of business administration in international business degree, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a master’s in sport management.  

“The role is perfect in every way,” McDermott said in a statement. “I know there will be challenges, the current situation with the pandemic being one of them, but I’m excited to return to athletics at a level I believe in….More than ever, we need to have a voice that brings in excellence in every way, and I look forward to having that strong voice.”  

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