A couple of months ago, students walking into Ray Tompkins House, home to the University’s athletics administration, would have been quick to notice the barren walls and the patchy paint job.
Now, posters have been hung and trophies showcased, offering a glimpse into Yale’s storied past and the much-anticipated change that is soon slated to sweep across the Athletic Department.
At the forefront of all the change is Victoria Chun, who was appointed as the University’s director of athletics last spring. Chun joins Yale after five years of service as vice president and director of athletics at Colgate, where she spearheaded major infrastructure projects, oversaw multiple facilities renovations and raised record-breaking sums. In her new role, Chun is charged with overseeing 34 varsity teams, a slew of intramural and club sports and the athletics facilities used by all members of the community.
“My vision involves making athletics an integral part of the University,” Chun said. “The student athletes here are unique in that they play at the highest level of athletics at such an academically rigorous institution. I want to help bolster school spirit and pride, in part so that the student-athletes can realize that their hard work is both recognized and appreciated by many people beyond the athletics programs that support them.”
Chun is already busy implementing her vision. Over the past couple of months, she has been “adding a little love,” to the interior of the Ray Tompkins House, redesigning it so that it properly reflects the tradition of the athletics program and the excitement that it invokes.
The walls of the building have been completely repainted. Trophies — including the 1936 Heisman Trophy, which was previously stored on a shelf out of sight, and this year’s NCAA lacrosse championship trophy — flank the main corridor. She plans to add a 40-foot runner inscribed with “For God, For Country and For Yale,” to the mix of decorations.
“These minor additions also show how much pride we have in our student-athletes, and, that as coaches and administrators, we are trying to do the very best for student-athletes,” Chun added.
One of her main initiatives this year will be to merge the sports medicine and sports performance departments. Chun explained that at most schools, because both offices operate separately, student-athletes have to act as the “go-between.” Combining the two will ensure that student athletes have the best care available.
Tony Reno, head coach of the football team, told the News that he appreciates the “huge impact” that Chun has already made.
“She’s been very supportive,” Reno said. “She’s very approachable and in the trenches with the coaches and the students, interacting with them directly.”
Chun’s career is one marked by many firsts: Last spring, she became the first woman and the first Asian American in Yale’s history to serve as the director of athletics. Years before, she made NCAA history as a volleyball player and coach. Chun is the only person in Division I history to earn both player and coach of the year honors in the same conference and to win conference championships in both capacities.
At Colgate, Chun fostered an unprecedented level of academic excellence and integrity among student-athletes. During her tenure, Colgate’s student-athletes achieved a 98 percent graduation rate, the second highest in the country. By 2016, the average GPA of student-athletes surpassed the average GPA of the non-athlete student body.
In a speech last spring, University President Peter Salovey said he admired Chun’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence as well as her “extraordinary ability to create a culture of enthusiasm and pride within an athletics program.”
For her reputation as one of the most enthusiastic, innovative and well-respected leaders in the NCAA, Chun was recognized as a “Game Changer” by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal in 2014.
But despite the praise and awards, Chun has big shoes to fill: She succeeds Tom Beckett, who retired in June after a record-breaking 24 years at the helm of Yale Athletics.
In an email to the News, Beckett said that he is excited about the future of Yale Athletics, adding that Yale made a “great decision” by hiring Chun, whom he cited as “highly accomplished.”
Students are similarly excited. Dieter Eiselen ’20, a football player and co-president of the Yale Student Athlete College Council, said that he appreciates the “full guidance and support” that Chun has already given, noting that she attended the first meeting with suggestions and advice.
But for now, Chun is busy overseeing her first fall season at the helm of Yale Athletics.
“There’s a lot we are looking forward to doing in the future,” Chun said, walking down a hallway while she pointed to the many championship trophies on display. “The changes don’t have to be full-scale renovations. Even minor tweaks can make a big difference.”
Lorenzo Arvanitis | firstname.lastname@example.org