New AD wants high level of success on and off the field
by Ed Syguda
In this age of email, Facebook and Twitter, Dawn Mamula Stewart ’98, Otterbein’s new athletic director, prefers face-to-face interaction.
“I have an open-door policy,” said Stewart, who brings more than 14 years of athletic administration experience at the NCAA Division I and III levels to her new position. “When the staff, student athletes, or others feel comfortable to come into my office and tell me about their day, share stories or tell me about the latest issue with their programs, there is so much value in those conversations. Those are the conversations that help you determine what the true needs are for the department.”
The former tennis player — she was a part of two Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championship teams — holds lofty expectations for the athletics program, echoing the thoughts of President Kathy Krendl.
“A highly competitive athletic program adds value to the overall university experience,” Krendl said. “We want our student athletes to have a well-rounded experience, not only being engaged in sport, but achieving high marks in academics and becoming active in the community.”
Immediately, Stewart is striving to win both the men’s and women’s all-sports trophy in the OAC. “In order to give us the best chance to win, we need at least six men’s programs and six women’s programs to finish in the top three within the OAC standings,” Stewart said.
Otterbein has won the men’s all-sports trophy twice (in 2002 and 2005) since the trophy’s inception in 1960. Although the women’s program is waiting on its first trophy win, Otterbein has finished fourth or better in the women’s standings in each of the last 12 years.
To get the men’s and women’s programs running at a high level, Stewart is directing her coaching staff to go after the best in their recruiting efforts.
“We want to pursue a high academic achiever who also can compete at a high level,” said Stewart when describing her ideal student athlete. “We have so much to offer, with such a great campus.”
Stewart’s approach is gaining the notice of Otterbein’s student athletes. “Dawn’s passion for the institution is apparent from the moment you begin talking to her,” said pitcher Dominic Porretta ’13, who is president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) at Otterbein. “Since she was a Division III student athlete, she knows what we go through every day to succeed both on and off the field and how these experiences will impact the rest of our lives. At Capital, she implemented a spaghetti dinner where the coaches serve and athletes from different teams compete in fun games. Her ideas have the student athletes at the forefront.”
Stewart replaced legendary men’s basketball coach and athletic director Dick Reynolds ’65 to become the first full-time and female athletic director at Otterbein. Stewart has only been on the job for a couple of months but has already made two high-profile head coaching hires for football and men’s basketball (see page 14). Now she is turning her attention to building relationships.
Stewart, 35, began her professional career at her alma mater, Otterbein, in 1998, serving as recruiting coordinator and assistant women’s tennis coach before moving on to the University of Dayton in 2000. At Dayton, Stewart first served as director of ticketing services before being promoted to assistant director of athletics for business and communications in 2002. In 2007, she was named senior woman administrator, and in addition to continuing to manage a $17 million budget and athletics communication, was placed in charge of the office of athletics academic affairs. Following Dayton, Stewart became athletic director at Capital University in 2008 where she managed 18 varsity sports.
Stewart holds a master’s degree in sport management from The Ohio State University and is working on her doctorate in sport management at Ohio State. She is married to Steve Stewart ’98. They live in Westerville.
When asked about being a woman in a line of work largely populated by men, Stewart responded, “I’m asked this question often. People may have their opinions about how I do my job, but ultimately, my focus has always been on building relationships. And I think no matter male or female, as long as you are making your relationships a priority and your service to the University a priority, it doesn’t matter.”
Building relationships one by one, face to face has been Stewart’s method of operation since her first official day on the job May 7. So if you are on campus, stop by her office, say hello, and meet Otterbein’s new athletic director.