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Division I Athletic Director Returns as Distinguished Alumna to Discuss Her Career in Higher Education

The award-winning director of athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and SUNY Plattsburgh alumna, Mary Ellen Gillespie, will speak on campus about her career in athletics, fundraising and higher education Wednesday, April 26 at 4 p.m. in Krinovitz Recital Hall, Hawkins Hall.

Gillespie, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication in 1994 and a master’s in college and agency counseling in 1997, is the first woman to serve as director of athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She was invited back to campus as a distinguished visiting alumna and will speak on, “Lean In: My Journey to the Chair.” 

During her time at SUNY Plattsburgh, Gillespie served as a leader in the fraternity/sorority community, as a member of the summer orientation program and as a residence director of Wilson Hall.

Where she felt most at home though was in the gym, on the court or field. Although she didn’t compete in college, she played club sports and competed with other sororities.

After completing her degrees, Gillespie began working at SUNY Plattsburgh as coordinator in the office of the dean of students. She went on to hold posts in academic fundraising and student life at Purdue University, the University of Iowa and the North American Intrafraternity Conference. Her degrees and experiences allowed her to pursue her true passion — athletics — in a meaningful way.

“It wasn’t one job that allowed me to become an athletic director at a Division I university,” she said.  “I tie it back to my time at Plattsburgh. People really invested time and resources in me, including getting me into leadership positions.”

When she learned that the athletics department and the master’s program in student affairs and higher education nominated her to be named this year’s Distinguished Visiting Alumni, she was “incredibly honored and flattered.”

“I got here because of my incredible education, and I’m coming back to talk to students about using their Plattsburgh experiences to find their passion and then keep using it to elevate themselves professionally after graduation.”

As director of athletics for University of Wisconsin Green Bay, Gillespie oversees an external relations staff of 30 and a budget of $7 million with primary responsibility for image and revenue, including fundraising, marketing, promotions, game-day atmosphere, corporate sponsorships, ticket operations, rights fees, licensing, concessions, merchandising and athletics communication.

Her talk, sponsored by the Plattsburgh Alumni Association, Department of Athletics and Student Affairs and Higher Education Master’s Program, is free and open to the public. 

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