History of the Position
The department of athletics and physical education at Connecticut College was formed with the hiring of its first director of athletics, Charles B. Luce, in 1974. Prior to hiring Luce, there were many intercollegiate and intramural activities for the students however, they were not formally overseen by an administrative group. Luce, who served as director of athletics from 1974 to 1992, is credited with forming the modern-day athletics program.
Luce worked with then president Oakes Ames and treasurer Lee Knight to put into motion his vision for a Division III athletics program. Luce built the program from six sports in 1974 to 19 in 1984. Together with senior administration, he was successful in developing the campus east of route 32 with the construction of Dayton Arena in 1979. The addition of the ice arena brought men’s ice hockey and contributed further to the College’s move to co-education which started in 1969.
Luce, having the vision to schedule as many NESCAC opponents as possible, was responsible for leading Connecticut College into the NESCAC in 1983. Soon after this the College moved to construct the athletic center, now appropriately named the Charles B. Luce Field House, completed and dedicated by the late Arthur Ashe in 1984. From 1984 to 1999, the athletics program grew from 19 sports to its current 28 sports (15 for women, 12 for men, and one coed team).
Luce retired in 1992 and he was succeeded by Robert Malekoff, a former lacrosse and soccer coach and administrator at Princeton and Harvard. Under Malekoff (1992 to 1996), the College continued to improve athletics facilities and competition with NESCAC institutions expanded. Wayne Swanson, government professor, served as interim director for one year. The next director of athletics was Kenneth McBryde who served from 1997 to 2002. During his tenure the NCAA instituted the automatic qualifier for championships, putting heavy emphasis on conference competition and equal access to championships. Following McBryde, Stanton Ching, chemistry professor, served as interim director during the 2002-2003 academic year. When Swanson and Ching stepped into their interim director roles they both were the College’s Faculty Athletic Representatives (FAR) to the NCAA.
In July of 2003, Fran Shields became the director of athletics and he has served in this role for the past 16 years. He first joined the department of athletics at the College in the fall of 1980 as head coach of men’s lacrosse and during his time in that position, built the varsity men’s lacrosse program into a nationally ranked program. He was named national (USILA) Coach of the Year in 1993.
As athletics director, Shields led the intercollegiate programs to improved competitive success in the NESCAC and oversaw a $16 million transformation of the athletics facilities, including the construction of the artificial turf at Silfen Field, the Ann & Lee Higdon Fitness Center, the renovation of the South Tennis Courts, and improvements to the waterfront for sailing and rowing. Shields has made significant contributions to campus life as a member of the first Presidential Task Force on Athletics in 2002, the President’s Commission on a Pluralistic Community in 2003, the Connecticut College Strategic Planning Committee in 2004, and the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee in 2017. He also served on the College’s recent campus master plan steering committee.
His 40-year history with the institution and the number of student athletes Sheilds impacted enables him to play an important role in helping the College achieve its goals for athletics as outlined in the strategic plan. With a strategic plan objective of making investments in the athletics infrastructure and in the operating support for varsity athletics, combined with the College beginning the third year of a comprehensive campaign, Shields is moving out of the director of athletics role to become the inaugural director of the Camel Athletics Network/athletic director emeritus. In this new role, Shields will report to both Kim Verstandig, vice president for college advancement, and to the incoming director of athletics. Contributing to the leadership teams of both departments, he will work to build collaboration between advancement and athletics and, given his deep alumni network, he will mobilize alumni and donors to support varsity athletics and the athletics master plan that are part of the College’s current campaign.