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Presidential Perspective

Athletes turn crisis into creativity
by President Philip A. Glozbach

When Marie and I arrived on campus four years ago, Skidmore faced a number of very real challenges. One of the most vexing was in the area of intercollegiate athletics, where a recent review had shown that we were not meeting the needs of our student-athletes, particularly women. In short, we simply were not achieving the level of excellence that we expect of all Skidmore programs.

Participation in intercollegiate athletics had been an integral aspect of our own children’s college experience. As a parent, I saw firsthand the many life skills they gained through their participation, and I was committed to providing the same opportunities for student-athletes at Skidmore.

The problem was, as it so often is, resources—time, energy, and funding. The college was just emerging from a period where all those essential elements were in short supply. We therefore made the difficult decision to reduce the size of our intercollegiate program so that we might reallocate resources among a smaller number of sports. The most significant move was to eliminate men’s ice hockey, our single most expensive program.

As we now know, that decision set in motion a series of events that transformed Skidmore’s athletics programs in many wonderful ways. It also revealed just how much can be accomplished when people decide to work together selflessly and creatively. As was expected, the hockey decision generated considerable consternation among those alumni whose experience as players on that team had been so important to them. But rather than let their disappointment turn into bitterness, they reached out to me and to others to see if we could collaborate in developing an alternative. Working together, we created a plan that would raise sufficient funds not only to continue men’s ice hockey but also to improve it and, along with it, the rest of our Skidmore intercollegiate athletics program.

The willingness of these alumni to think creatively—their ability to see possibility and opportunity where others saw only negatives—was instrumental in helping us find the best path forward. I’d like to think that their capacity to do so was a function not only of who they are but also of what they learned at Skidmore, both in the classroom and on the playing field. These are the very capacities I expect our student-athletes—and, indeed, all of our students—to develop today.

This past Commencement marked a unique milestone for Marie and me: the graduating seniors had arrived on campus the same year we did. As we often do, we were delighted to pose for photographs with new grads and their families. One, however, was particularly poignant. It was a group shot with the seniors from the men’s ice-hockey team and their parents. All of them were newly arrived first-year students when we made those fateful decisions in fall 2003. All of them stayed with us through those difficult times. And all of them played a central role in the resurgence of hockey and our athletics program writ large. Most importantly, all of us were reminded, once again, that in ways large and small, creative