Director of Athletics

May 7, 2020
Dear members of the Harvard Athletics community,
I am pleased to announce that Erin McDermott has been named the next John D. Nichols ’53 Family Director of Athletics at Harvard. She will assume the role on July 1, 2020.In embarking on this search, I had the unique privilege of diving deeply into one of the most beloved parts of our institution and hearing from the people who care about it most: our coaches, who have dedicated their lives to transformational leadership in sport; our staff, who have similarly dedicated their lives to Harvard’s mission of education through athletics; our alumni, who keep us true to our traditions as well as our aspirations; our student-athletes, whose intensity, commitment, and talent is a constant source of inspiration and hope for the future; and our faculty, who are committed to a transformative experience for all of our students. The conversations on campus and with athletics thought leaders around the country were eye-opening, reinforcing not only the singularly formative experience of sport, but also the complex issues ahead for intercollegiate athletics.
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. 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. Throughout her career, she has privileged face-to-face relationships as the foundation for collaboration, innovation, and change. Erin knows better than anyone the power of a strong community united by common values, both when we are celebrating our accomplishments and confronting challenges. In this moment, when our opportunities to be together as a community have been so disrupted, I couldn’t be more excited for Erin to join us and to bring her passion for education through athletics and community-building through recreational sports to this new moment.
Erin’s appointment marks her return to Ivy League athletics after seven years leading an era of strategic growth and impressive success at the University of Chicago. As Director of Athletics and Recreation, she oversaw 20 intercollegiate sports, more than 40 club sports, an active intramural sports program with thousands of student participants annually, a robust fitness program, as well as athletics facilities. Since her arrival to Chicago in 2013, the Maroons captured 17 UAA championships, seven NCAA individual event championships, and six top-20 finishes in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings among 450 NCAA Division III institutions. Under Erin’s leadership, the department reached several major milestones, including adding women’s lacrosse as the school’s 20th varsity sport—the first varsity sport to be added in 30 years—securing the university’s first ever department-wide apparel agreement with Adidas, and launching the Friends of Maroon Athletics to increase engagement with alumni and enhance the student-athlete experience. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Erin served as Deputy Director of Athletics at Princeton University where she oversaw internal operations for 38 intercollegiate sports. She began her career in athletics at Columbia University where she worked on issues of compliance and oversaw recruiting activity and eligibility for 28 varsity sports.
A recognized leader in college athletics, Erin has also served on several national committees, including the Executive Committee of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators and the Board of Directors for Women Leaders in College Sports. She is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), and a 2019 winner of the NACDA AD of the Year award.
Erin’s deep commitment to the holistic growth and development of student-athletes is reflected in her successful track record of creating a culture that leads to outstanding performances on and off the field. During her time at Chicago, 14 student-athletes were selected as Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association Academic All-Americans, the most prestigious academic award in collegiate athletics. And at both Chicago and Princeton, she successfully partnered with university leadership to develop student wellness programs that expanded support for student mental and physical health on campus. She is a firm believer in the leadership development opportunities that athletics—both competitive and recreational—can provide students, and has been a steadfast advocate for the value of intercollegiate athletics in student development and the overall health, diversity, and culture of a university environment.
Erin’s professional journey is rooted in her own formative experience as a former student-athlete. A member of the women's basketball team at Hofstra University, she served as team captain and was the winner of the school's senior scholar-athlete award. She credits her experience at Hofstra for her decision to pursue a career in college athletics as it was there that she realized the profound educational value of sport. Inspired by fellow teammates and coaches, the experience catalyzed personal growth, maturity, and resilience—lessons and values she still carries with her today. She earned her bachelor of business administration in International Business at Hofstra University, and her master's degree in Sport Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As a native of Massachusetts, Erin’s move to Harvard is also an exciting homecoming. I am delighted that she has agreed to join us in Cambridge.
Throughout her career, Erin has proven herself to be a thoughtful and effective champion for the power of sport to develop students as individuals and leaders, and she does so in pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics. As a values-driven leader with deep roots in the Ivy League, Erin joins Harvard poised to advance the proud traditions and philosophy of Harvard Athletics, and to positively shape the experience of our student-athletes and all those who participate in club sports, intramurals, and Harvard’s extensive recreational programs.  
I am profoundly grateful to the members of the search advisory committee, Mike Smith, Jack Reardon, Stephanie Khurana, Tommie Shelby, Gwill York, and Katie O’Dair, who, together with our search consultants from Korn Ferry International conducted extensive outreach with members of the Harvard Athletics community and worked diligently to identify and review an outstanding pool of candidates. And, of course, I am grateful to Bob Scalise, whose legacy of leadership and distinguished service to Harvard Athletics and to the Ivy League is incalculable. I am thankful Bob has generously agreed to continue serving as an advisor to me on athletics through academic year 2020-21.
This is an exciting moment for the future of Harvard Athletics. Even as we enter a time of significant challenge posed by COVID-19, I am hopeful and confident about what’s to come. Erin will be a powerful advocate for our student-athletes across campus and within the Ivy League, and I look forward to partnering with her to ensure the continued success and vibrancy of our athletic programs. Please join me in welcoming Erin to Harvard! Go Crimson!