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Royer chosen as athletics director

Professor Candace Royer, recently named as the new head of athletics.
Professor Candace Royer, recently named as the new head of athletics.
Photo / Donna Coveney

Candace L. Royer, a professor of physical education who has taught, coached and worked in sports administration at MIT for 20 years, has been named director of athletics and head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation. She replaces Richard Hill, who stepped down at the end of December.

Professor Royer is the first woman to be named athletics director at an Ivy League Plus school, a group that includes the eight Ivys plus MIT, Stanford and the University of Chicago.

"I am delighted to announce the appointment of Candace Royer as our new director and head of athletics, physical education and recreation," said Larry Benedict, dean for student life. "The skills and experiences as an outstanding coach and successful administrator that she brings to the position are exemplary. Her diplomatic skills are outstanding. The breadth and depth of her contributions across the Institute are indeed commendable and were reflected in the very broad base of support she received during the search process."

Dean Benedict opened the internal search by asking for comments from the community. He received e-mails, met with full- and part-time coaches, and talked with students, alumni/ae and administrators. From that process, five candidates emerged. After interviewing all five and consulting with the president and chancellor, "Candace Royer clearly emerged as the top candidate," he said.

"I believe she is uniquely positioned to be a truly outstanding director and I very much look forward to working with her in the years to come," Dean Benedict said.

As athletics director, Professor Royer will oversee a Division III athletics program with 41 varsity sports (17 for women, 21 for men and three coed), including 10 sports that compete with some of the best schools in the nation (fencing, rifle and non-NCAA sports, such as crew, gymnastics and squash).

As head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation, she will manage a department that requires every undergraduate at the Institute take at least four courses. The department also offers physical education classes to all members of the MIT community, boasts 2,000 intramural sports teams and provides 41 club sports for students and other community members.


She takes over at a time of change in the department. Financial cuts in recent years resulted in the dismantlement of the junior varsity teams. But construction recently began on the Institute's new $45 million sports and fitness center, which will bring additional space and new regulation-size facilities for some sports.

The department is working on a new strategic plan with a committee headed by David Ellis, former president of Lafayette University, comprising students, coaches, visiting committee members and faculty at the Institute.

"I'm very pleased to be coming into this position at a time when we're doing strategic planning," said Professor Royer. "Many of the problems can be discussed and dealt with in a professional way."

It's also a time when the Institute is learning to work better as a community, searching for new ways to incorporate student life and academic education on one campus. Professor Royer, who is considered by students to be a "friend and ally," in the words of one, has plans for involving students in decision-making within athletics, a decision they welcome.

"This is a faith-restoring choice," said Ian McCreery, a senior in ocean engineering who is co-captain of the sailing team and co-chair of the Undergraduate Association's Athletics subcommittee.

"Professor Royer has been a real friend and ally to students in recent years, and her appointment to head the athletics department signals a recognition by the administration of the need for student-oriented leadership there," said Peter Shulman, a senior in mathematics who is president of the Undergraduate Association. "I expect her appointment to signal a great opportunity for students and her department to work together in charting the future of MIT's athletics program, from funding issues to the structure of particular teams."

Professor Royer hopes to involve students more in the department's decision-making process, improve programs for graduate students, find ways to involve her department in sports research, and look carefully at the structure of the athletics programs, including the possible need for some junior varsity teams.

"My goals are to maintain our programs at a very high level of satisfaction to our community users, to provide educational opportunities for those who wish to learn physical skills, and to maintain an atmosphere where our community can enjoy their individual and collective pursuits in athletics," said Professor Royer. "If we can find ways to bring faculty and students together in this setting, that would please me very much, as I believe MIT needs to find ways to enhance and develop student-faculty interactions beyond the classroom and laboratory."

Professor Royer earned a BS from Pennsylvania State University in 1971, where she also played varsity tennis. She went on to be an instructor in physical education and head women's tennis coach at Penn State, earning the MS in 1981. She came to MIT as head women's tennis coach and assistant director of physical education that same year. She was named assistant department head for sports administration in 1995, and associate department head and director of physical education in 1997.

Her decision to leave Penn State's Division I program, choosing MIT over both Duke and her alma mater, was based on her desire to be more heavily involved in education.

"I love tennis both for the pure sensations of hitting the ball, as well as for the superb vehicle it is to teach young people about life, values, ethics and sportsmanship. At MIT I felt that the emphasis on education was compatible with my goals," she said.


Of the nation's 1,570 schools with a single director over both men's and women's athletics, only about 11 percent (180) have a woman director, according to the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Only six of those are at Division 1-A schools; none is at an Ivy League school.

The first woman athletic director not at a women's college was appointed in 1975 at the University of California at San Diego, a Division III school. The first 1-A school to have a woman athletic director was San Diego State, from 1983-85. Another didn't come around until 1992, when Michigan State appointed a woman to the position. The University of Maine at Orono is the only Division 1 school in New England with a woman athletic director. Professor Royer is one of several women directors in MIT's conference (the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference). Others are at Clark, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Wellesley.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 2001.

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