June 13, 2011
Jim Knowlton, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Northeast
Jim Knowlton inherited a Division III, academically strong institution that also included Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey programs when he took over as athletics director three years ago.
To some, this rare mix would be difficult to master, but Knowlton has been extremely successful in raising the profile of athletics at RPI. As a career military man and professional engineer, his experiences helped him tremendously on campus as he spearheaded a $92 million athletics facilities complex, providing the student-athletes with top quality facilities that provide superb support to both the athletic and academic missions.
He also helped endow the first head coach position in school history and developed new athletic marks that are now registered and trademarked. He initiated an Academic Liaison program which teams faculty with athletic teams and has overseen a sponsorship program that has doubled in financial support.
All the while, the students continue to maintain a 3.1 GPA and the department had 45 athletes with perfect 4.0’s this semester.
Prior to joining Rensselaer, Knowlton served as the deputy and interim director of athletics at the United States Military Academy. He has also served as chair of the NCAA Hockey Rules Committee, being named chair just one year after his appointment.
Frank O’Brien, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, West
After 20 years in the athletics director position at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (UWSP), Frank O’Brien currently stands as the longest-serving AD in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC), as he looks towards his 2011 retirement.
Under O’Brien’s direction, UWSP has won 78 WIAC conference championships and have had unprecedented success at the national level, as 15 of the 20 athletics teams have made Final Four appearances.
In addition to his work with Pointers’ athletics, O’Brien has been an integral part of the Stevens Point community, serving on numerous local boards and organizations. His personal commitment to the Stevens Point community has brushed off on coaches and student-athletes alike, as the UWSP student-athletes received the Jostens Community Service Award for Division III at the 2011 NCAA Convention.
O’Brien was instrumental in the development of women’s hockey as a varsity sport in the West Region and the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) women’s playoff trophy was named the O’Brien Cup in 2006. He served as commissioner for the NCHA for several seasons and was a member of the NCAA championships committee for the inaugural Division I women’s ice hockey championship in 2001 and the first four Division III tournaments from 2002-05.
Larry Scheiderer, Denison University, Central
When Larry Scheiderer was hired as Denison University’s athletics director in 1991, he was charged with merging the men’s and women’s athletics departments, while integrating the physical education major and club sports under one umbrella.
Not only did Scheiderer accomplish this feat, but Denison athletics have since won 10 of their record 11 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) All-Sports Trophies and 29 conference championships under his direction.
Denison is also in the midst of a $38.5 million renovation and expansion of its athletics facilities - the largest such project in the college’s history. The project is so substantial, that as of July 1, Scheiderer will start in a new role as the director of athletics operation, the first position of its kind at the college.
At the center of this expansion is a new, state-of-the art natatorium, as well as a two-story fitness center, athletics training suite, a new entryway and large lobby area that will include an area for the Denison Athletics Hall of Fame and historic artifacts. Scheiderer has been active within the leadership of the NCAC and is currently the president of the Intercollegiate Officiating Association and also serves as the chairman of the NCAC’s conduct review committee.
Since 2001, Scheiderer has been a volunteer basic emergency technician and fire fighter with the Granville Township Fire Department. He currently serves as lieutenant in his volunteer role as an EMT-B and fire fighter.
Joy Solomen, Rowan University, Southeast
As director of athletics at Rowan University for the past 24 years, Joy Solomen has been an advocate for athletics at the local, state, regional and national levels.
Her commitment to the profession and Rowan has been consistent throughout her career and her enthusiasm is contagious throughout the Rowan athletics department. Rowan student-athletes are regularly recognized for academic excellence as well as their involvement in the community, as Solomen sets high standards for excellence both on and off the field.
She has served on numerous committees for the NCAA, Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and NACWAA, in addition to chairing the NCAA Management Council, Division III Women’s Basketball Committee, Division III Championship Committee, and currently is the first woman to chair the NCAA Division III Football Committee.
Solomen was also president of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and the Collegiate Athletic Administrator of New Jersey (CAANJ). Solomen was named one of NACDA’s Athletic Directors of the Year in 2003, as well as NACWAA’s 2003 Division III Administrator of the Year.
She also earned the General Robert R. Neyland Athletic Director Award from the All-American Football Foundation.