Colorado College found its new athletic director and vice president in Lesley Irvine, who has experience in many areas of athletics.
Irvine comes to CC from the joint athletics program for Pomona and Pitzer Colleges in Southern California, where she was director of athletics and recreation and the chair of physical education. She will start at Colorado College on June 1.
Irvine, 42, replaces Ken Ralph, who left after 11 years to become the athletic director at Maine in September. Greg Capell, senior associate director of athletics, served as interim AD. A national search took place, and Irvine said the “process moved quickly” for her.
Part of what drew her to Colorado College was its reputation as “one of the best liberal art colleges in the country.”
“I loved the sense of the community, being in a city that is clearly invested in what’s happening there,” Irvine said. “You just want to be in places where athletics are relevant, and people get excited about sports. I find myself to be an advocate for that.
“People are active and outside. I want to see, what can I do to help build community around that too?”
Irvine was a college athlete, playing indoor and outdoor field hockey at Loughborough University in her native England and one year at the University of Iowa. She soon transitioned to coaching and administration. She was field hockey coach at Stanford from 2001-2010 and senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator at Bowling Green State University, which has men's hockey, from 2010-15.
During her time at Stanford, she led the Cardinal to three consecutive Northern Pacific Conference championships, and was conference coach of the year twice. She said “not a day goes by” that she doesn’t lean on her coaching experience.
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Can you take your administrator hat off?’ I’m always wearing all of those hats,” she said.
“In the trenches every day, you’ve got to build strong relationships with your coaches, got to understand the challenges, got to keep them motivated.”
Irvine’s experience at Division I Bowling Green and Div. III Pomona-Pitzer cover her bases at Colorado College, where men's hockey and women’s soccer compete at Div. I and all other sports are Div. III. The undergraduate enrollments between the combined institutions are similar.
She had the chance to shape the athletic department at Pomona-Pitzer, as the first full-time athletic director in more than 15 years. While there, the Sagehens took home 15 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships.
Irvine helped raise two lead gifts totaling $20 million for a campus athletics and recreation building.
She inherits a program that has big changes already underway. Colorado College is scheduled to break ground this year on the $39 million Edward J. Robson Arena, with an eye on a new natatorium built on the same site in a few years.
“It’s not just for the students, it’s for all the people who are vested in that program, to have the opportunity to have that on campus,” Irvine said. “(There’s) an opportunity to use that to leverage excitement around all 17 programs.”