Recently announced as Princeton’s next director of athletics, Mollie Marcoux ’91 wrote her senior thesis on the history of women in sports from 1895 to 1946. Perhaps this independent work was foreshadowing, as she will make her own mark on the history of college athletics by becoming the first female AD in the University’s history. On August 4, 2014, Marcoux will replace Gary Walters ’67 at the helm in Jadwin Gymnasium. Walters, who announced his retirement last fall, will conclude a 20 year tenure that boasted the most Ivy League championships of any school during the era.
During her time at Princeton, Marcoux majored in history while lettering four times in both soccer and ice hockey. A one-time all-Ivy selection in soccer, she earned four straight first-team honors in hockey while serving as captain and setting the Ivy League record for most goals in a season with 35. After her final season, Marcoux was awarded the C. Otto von Kienbusch Sportswoman of the Year Award for “high scholastic rank, sportsmanship and general excellence in athletics.”
Marcoux’s professional career began with a stint at the local Lawrenceville School, where she served as assistant athletic director, assistant dean of admissions, assistant housemaster and coach of girls’ ice hockey and soccer. She then began a 19-year position with Chelsea Piers Management, a sports and entertainment company that owns and operates two world-class sports complexes where clients can utilize weight rooms, driving ranges and bowling alleys with professional coaching. There she founded the Chelsea Piers Scholarship Fund for children in need, and became executive vice president and executive director of the company’s 400,000 square foot sports complex in Stamford, Conn.
Marcoux says that she never considered returning to the world of college sports until she was approached for the specific position Princeton had to offer.
“I thought of this as the dream job for me, in being able to combine my passion for Princeton, my passion for sports [and] my love of management and leadership, and really sort of bring it all together,” she said.
Her role as AD will not be Marcoux’s first time working for the University’s athletic department, however. Between her junior and senior years in college, the first-team all-ECAC hockey player interned in the University’s Sports Information (currently Athletic Communications) office. During the internship, Marcoux says she forged professional relationships that she has kept ever since and that she feels particularly excited to return to the University for that reason.
“There are a lot of familiar faces that I worked with many years ago that are still there or still in touch, which is a really great part of Princeton,” she said. “People really stay connected.”
Marcoux cites her admiration for Walters’ commitment to the department’s motto, “Education through Athletics,” as inspiration for her own future.
“Our athletic programs should at all times advance, not compete with, the educational mission of the University,” she said. “The school believes that there’s real learning that happens while playing a sport: not only the life lessons but [also] the determination and the time management.”
Marcoux says that preserving this philosophy is in line with the experience she had as a student-athlete at the University, and that she hopes to help current students feel the same way.
“People cared about sports and academics hand in hand; it wasn’t one or the other,” she recalled. “Being a real committed student but also being a real committed athlete, you felt like people valued the work you were doing and came out and cheered you on and helped create a great culture.”
Although Princeton began admitting women as undergraduates in 1969, the University had never appointed a female athletic director before selecting Marcoux this April.
“I think it’s a real honor, and I certainly value being the first woman,” she said. “I think it’s always great to be the first of anything, but I do view it as I’ll just be the athletic director and will do my very best to make the Princeton community proud of our athletic program, as it has been.”
Marcoux contends that, in addition to her chief concern of winning games and championships, she will evaluate her department based on the less tangible experiences of her student-athletes.
“The amount of learning that the students are doing on a daily basis is a huge metric of success, not only on the field but off the field,” she said.
Again referencing Walters’ impressive career, Marcoux hopes to bring more preservation than change to a program that she feels has been remarkably successful in recent years.
“Since I left, and even when I was there, the school has done a fabulous job of getting great coaches who are real mentors and leaders, and so I just am really excited to work with those coaches and continue that culture to continue to provide excellent experiences on and off the field for all the athletes,” she said.
“You always want to build on a tradition of excellence,” she said. “I think you never want to just keep the status quo, but [at the same time] you have to value the traditions and the total success that we’ve had and build upon that. That’s one thing that I’m really excited about, is that there’s so much to know and so much to learn … I think that’s the first thing that I need to do is just listen a ton, learn as much as I can.”