Bob Scalise, the John D. Nichols ’53 Family Director of Athletics, said today that he would retire at the end of the academic year after more than 40 years at Harvard in various roles, the last 19 overseeing the College’s 42 intercollegiate teams through a series of successful seasons, intramurals, club sports, and recreational fitness and wellness programs.
“My family and I are tremendously proud and very grateful to have had the opportunity to share our lives with this great institution,” Scalise said in a message to colleagues this afternoon. “I have been so fortunate to have worked with and for great people during my time at Harvard. I am proud of what we have built together and know that Harvard Athletics will continue to thrive in the years ahead.”
Scalise’s association with the storied department dates to 1974, when he was appointed head coach of the men’s lacrosse team; he became the first head coach of women’s soccer in 1976. After 13 years of running teams at Harvard, he enrolled in Harvard Business School, and graduated with an M.B.A. in 1989. In 2001, he was appointed the seventh director of the Harvard Athletics Department.
Throughout his tenure, Scalise has fostered an environment committed to enriching the student experience at Harvard through athletics. In his email today, he reiterated the important role athletics plays in the education students receive here and in their everyday lives on campus.
“Harvard is many things to many different people, but in my mind, the purpose of Harvard has always been to create knowledge and to educate leaders to serve the world,” Scalise said. “I am very proud to have supported this work by leading an Athletics Department whose mission is to educate through athletics and to build community and pride in Harvard.”
Scalise has also overseen a period of tremendous achievement for the teams. In his time as director, Harvard has won 22 national championships and 144 Ivy League titles, 46 of which were won by the class of 2017, a new Harvard record for most conference titles by a graduating class. Harvard also won team and/or individual national championships in 11 of the last 13 years, and was victorious in 14 of the last 17 editions of The Game against rival Yale’s football team.
This success has been recognized beyond the campus. At last year’s Yale game at Boston’s historic Fenway Park, Scalise was honored with the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s John L. Toner Award, which he shared with Yale University director of athletics Thomas Beckett. The John L. Toner Award is given annually to athletics directors who have demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown an outstanding dedication to college athletics, especially college football.
In a message to the FAS community, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay praised Scalise’s leadership and commitment to students.
“For nearly two decades, Bob Scalise has embodied the department’s mission of education through athletics and building community and pride in Harvard,” said Gay. “Whether you are a varsity athlete, a participant in an intramural club sport, or someone like me who just takes a break from work to let off steam on the treadmill, Bob’s thoughtful leadership has touched your life and helped to shape your Harvard experience.”
Gay also noted the work Scalise has done to expand services for student athletes and to modernize facilities throughout campus.
“On campus, he has led department-wide discussions of culture, enhanced training opportunities for students and staff, and successfully advocated for expanded mental health support for athletes. Under his leadership, athletics has expanded opportunities for female athletes, most recently through the addition of the women’s rugby team. He has encouraged public service among student-athletes through Crimson Cares, has led efforts to enhance the facilities where athletes practice and compete, and has helped to make the campus greener with the installation of solar panels on the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis building.”
Although formally retiring from his post, Scalise will continue to advise Gay on athletics during the 2020‒21 academic year. A national search for his successor will begin soon.