Q&A with Donna Woodruff, assistant vice president and director of athletics

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Brian Schneider and Larry French
A woman with short hair wearing a blazer and a green blouse stands at a podium to introduce herself to the Loyola community as the new director of athletics.

Donna Woodruff joined the Loyola community from Stony Brook University, where she worked in athletics for 13 years.

Donna Woodruff started as Loyola’s assistant vice president and director of athletics in July 2017.

Loyola magazine asked her to reflect on her first nine months at Loyola and look ahead to the future.

LM: Describe how your career path led you to Loyola. Why Loyola—and why now?

DW: I was fortunate to have been a college student-athlete and a coach at the University of Pennsylvania, who then moved on to an entry-level athletics administrator position at Villanova before being offered the job as associate athletics director (AD) at Stony Brook University. I was an integral part of the senior management team there, ultimately serving as deputy AD and interim AD while we built a young NCAA Division I program into a national competitor in several sports. That is to say I was very happy with my position at Stony Brook and the professional challenges that I had every day. Having grown up less than 90 minutes from Baltimore, knowing the academic strengths of Loyola, being aware of its athletic successes in recent years, and appreciating the values of a Jesuit institution, I had a good feeling as soon as I started discussions that Loyola might just be a good match (if I were thinking about making a professional move into the athletic director’s chair). Everything that I imagined about the position at Loyola was only heightened for me throughout the process. When you meet with 38 staff, administrators, alumni, donors, coaches, and student-athletes during a grueling few days and come away feeling even more excited about the possibility of joining their community, that is when you know this would be the right fit for you.

LM: As you get to know Loyola better, what do you find most surprising or interesting?

DW: As I have moved through my first nine months at Loyola, I have found a few things do stand out—and they all relate to the people. I am honestly surprised at the unbelievable level of collegiality and partnership that exists not only within our department but across campus. As a new member of the Loyola community, I am consistently impressed by the willingness to work together to meet our goals. I love it and truly appreciate being a member of the Greyhound family.

LM: Can you name or describe one highlight of your time here so far?

DW: As administrators and coaches, our daily commitments should be focused on the student-athletes we serve. It is so gratifying when they succeed and are applauded for their efforts. A highlight of my time here was when the NCAA released its recent Graduate Success Rates—and Loyola was recognized with the second highest score in the nation out of more than 350 Division I institutions and the highest in the Patriot League. That is an incredible statistic and phenomenal tribute to our athletes, coaches, and academic support staff, who all consistently demonstrate their commitment to academic success.

LM: What are the greatest strengths of the Loyola community?

DW: I have been incredibly impressed with how tightly connected the Loyola community is. Aside from the myriad number of talented faculty and staff, everywhere I turn, in Baltimore or elsewhere, I come across proud alumni who are having a positive professional and personal impact on their communities. And the number of successful alumni who truly love the Baltimore area and have chosen to stay here after graduation is really interesting and positive to see. Loyola alumni consistently talk with me about the transformative experiences they had while at Loyola, and they are forever grateful for that. It is impressive to see the true love and devotion that exists among those who have been touched by being part of this community. The people here care about one another; they cheer for their successes and support them when they experience challenges. It is a collaborative environment and really a pleasure to witness.

LM: What are the greatest strengths of Greyhound Athletics?

DW: Our outstanding coaches, student-athletes, and staff truly believe in our ability to be successful athletically and academically. Not many schools of our size can lay claim to national titles in two different sports (2012 Division I men’s lacrosse and 1976 Division II men’s soccer), not to mention the many conference titles and runs in the NCAA tournament in several different sports. Loyola’s talented coaches are respected nationally for their abilities, and we have student-athletes who can compete at the highest levels—and who are incredibly bright and socially conscious. We also derive great strength from the support we receive from the leadership of the institution outside of athletics. With our athletics facilities—including the Ridley Athletic Complex with its impressive soccer and lacrosse stadium and new tennis complex—Loyola is an attractive option for the most talented high school student-athletes. Additionally, gracious donor support for our new Air Dome has allowed us most recently to increase our competitive strength as well as recruiting abilities, as very few peer institutions in our conference or local area can offer such fine training facilities to their athletes.

Two male soccer players stand at a table with the athletic director, laughing and talking during the dedication of a new air dome that covers a turf field and provides year-round practice facilities for Loyola's athletic teams.

Woodruff speaks with members of the Greyhounds men’s soccer team during the dedication of the new Air Dome at Ridley Athletic Complex.

LM: What are your aspirations and priorities for Greyhound Athletics?

DW: I want Loyola Athletics to be positioned as best as possible for short- and long-term success. I want our coaches and student-athletes to feel that they are positioned for success and will have an opportunity to compete for championships. I am consistent in saying that I believe that winning is important. Our athletes, coaches, and staff work too hard, and therefore deserve the opportunity to enjoy success and win games. To that end, I also believe deeply in pursuing those victories in the right way: guided by integrity and a personal commitment to excellence. I also expect that we will always appreciate the appropriate balance between academic success and athletic success and continue to prepare our student-athletes for personal and professional success after graduation. The Loyola education is second-to-none, and our student-athletes have always displayed exceptional achievement in the classroom as evidenced by our collective 3.35 GPA. Their continued success in the classroom as we help prepare them for productive careers after graduation will always remain a priority. Additionally, I am acutely aware of the need to identify and cultivate new opportunities for generating revenue in order to financially support all of the hopes and aspirations for our programs. We are currently looking at new models for increasing revenue through ticketing, marketing, and corporate partnerships. Likewise, I have spent a considerable amount of time getting to know our current donors, and it will certainly remain a priority of mine to grow in this area as people trust what we are doing and chose to invest in our exceptional student-athletes.

LM: Can you discuss the importance of an athletics program in a university—particularly a Jesuit university?

DW: I have always believed that having a strong athletics program is very important for a college or university. The marketing and branding opportunities that come from a strong program are undeniable—and why many believe that an athletics program serves as the front porch to any school. Beyond that, I also happen to truly believe that education of a strong mind, body, and soul should be the focus of a comprehensive college education. At a Jesuit institution like Loyola, that balance is even more important. The education and development of the whole person is such an integral part of the Jesuit philosophy; participation in athletics is complementary to the core values of that philosophy. Loyola is clear that its core values revolve around a focus on care for the whole person, community, leadership, discernment, and the constant challenge to improve. Participation in a strong and balanced athletics program complements those values and leads to a student experience with which all members of the Loyola community can be proud to be associated.

LM: How are you enjoying Baltimore?

DW: Baltimore is a great city, and my husband and I are both enjoying being here and getting to know the area. We love the diversity of people, the many distinct neighborhoods that make up the collective whole, the benefits of a close-knit community with all the cultural offerings of a major city, and a lot of great restaurants. Even though ee will always cheer for our Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, now we also cheer proudly for the O’s and the Ravens!

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