PHILADELPHIA - M. Grace Calhoun has been named director of recreation and intercollegiate athletics at the University of Pennsylvania, effective July 1. The announcement was made today by the University’s Provost, Vincent Price.
Dr. Calhoun succeeds Steve Bilsky, who led Penn Athletics for 20 years in what is uniformly considered a highly successful tenure.
Calhoun is currently director of athletics and assistant vice president at Loyola University Chicago, where she has expanded campus partnerships and engagement, opened new facilities, recruited new coaches, and enhanced external revenue streams.
In 2012-13, she led the Ramblers to their best all-sports finish in the modern era and guided the university through a conference transition, from the Horizon League into the Missouri Valley Conference.
“We are extraordinarily fortunate to bring to Penn a national leader in intercollegiate athletics,” Price said. “Grace Calhoun has a tremendous range of skills and experience at every level. Above all, she shares our core value of focusing on athletics and recreation as a valuable part of the wider college experience, especially for our outstanding student-athletes, whom we want to excel both in the classroom and on the field.”
“We set out to find a star, and we did,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “Dr. Calhoun brings to Penn an insurmountable treasure of experience that will help us build on the stellar legacy of Steve Bilsky. And her Ivy League student background gives her a valuable leg up in understanding the culture at Penn that values student-athletes for both their intellectual as well as their physical abilities. I am so happy to welcome Grace along with her husband, Jason, a PGA golf professional, and their daughters to the Penn Quaker family.”
Winner of the 2009 Nell Jackson Administrator of the Year Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators, Calhoun brings with her Ivy League experience as both a student-athlete at Brown University and an athletics administrator at Dartmouth College. She has also served in leadership roles at Indiana University, Saint Francis (Pa.) University and the University of Florida, as well as the Patriot League where she was associate executive director.
Calhoun has been actively involved in the governance of the NCAA as chair of the Research Committee, vice chair of the Olympic Sports Liaison Committee, member of the Committee on Academic Performance, and chair of the Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid cabinet, in which role she led a two-year, nationwide student-athlete welfare initiative that resulted in financial aid reforms endorsed by the full NCAA membership in January 2011. She also completed a prestigious 18-month fellowship with the NCAA in 2005-06.
Calhoun has particular experience, throughout her career, in advancing the welfare and success of student-athletes. At Indiana University, she was instrumental in the formation of the Excellence Academy, a comprehensive student-athlete development program. The Academy uses innovative technologies and cross-university partnerships to help student-athletes make better progress toward their academic, athletic and personal goals and to better assess that progress by bringing together the resources of athletics with those of the wider university.
"I want to thank President Gutmann, Provost Price, and Executive Vice President Carnaroli for entrusting me with the leadership of Penn’s Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics,” said Calhoun. “Penn has a rich history and tradition of athletics few institutions can parallel. With the vast expansion and improvement of Penn’s athletics facilities under Steve Bilsky, and the generous support of alums and friends through the Campaign for Penn Athletics, I am fully confident that all programs are poised to achieve new levels of eminence while enhancing the spirit and excitement of the campus. I look forward to serving Penn’s talented student-athletes and coaches, as well as all the athletic and recreational pursuits of the Penn community."
Calhoun began her athletic career as a track and field athlete and academic captain at Brown University, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1992 with a degree in electrical engineering. She received a Ph.D. in higher education administration and an M.S. in exercise and sport sciences from the University of Florida, as well as an M.B.A. from Lehigh University, which she earned while working for the Patriot League.
“Provost Price, Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli and I are enormously grateful to the Advisory Committee that worked with us throughout this process, as well as to all the members of the Penn community who offered their valuable ideas and suggestions,” Gutmann said.