Princeton University Athletics Director to Step Down at End of School Year

Gary Walters. Photo courtesy of Princeton Athletic Communications.
Gary Walters. Photo courtesy of Princeton Athletic Communications.

Princeton University Director of Athletics Gary Walters will step down at the end of June, Princeton University announced today.

Walters, a standout basketball player for the Tigers as an undergraduate member of the Class of 1967, informed athletics department staff  members of his decision today.

“I did my best to ensure that our coaches, players and administrators did things right and did the right thing,” Walters said in a news release. “I am most proud of the integrity associated with our department’s commitment to Education Through Athletics as we have pursued excellence with a heart and with a soul.”

During his tenure, Walters has overseen the renovation or replacement of most of the university’s athletic facilities and has served a five-year term on the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee.

“Gary Walters has made Princeton’s athletic program a model for the nation,” Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. “His leadership has produced not only sustained competitive excellence, but, more importantly, a program that cares first and foremost about the education and character of the students who participate in it. At a time when many colleges have cynically abandoned the ideal of the scholar-athlete, Gary has upheld it with unstinting passion and energy.”

During every year of Walters’ tenure, Princeton has won at least one individual or team national title, as well as winning the unofficial Ivy League all-sports championship. Seventeen coaches he hired without previous Division I coaching experience have gone on to win Ivy League or national championships. Seven members of his administrative staff have become athletic directors or Division I conference commissioners.

Walters also is credited for overseeing wide-ranging upgrades of the University’s sports facilities, including the construction of Princeton Stadium and Weaver Track and Field as well as several other projects. They have included the Roberts Stadium soccer complex, new squash courts at Jadwin Gymnasium, new rugby fields, a new field hockey field, renovation and enhancement of Lenz Tennis Center, renovation and expansion of the Shea Rowing Center and improvements to Baker Rink and DeNunzio Pool.

Two of Walters’ hallmark initiatives include the creation of the Princeton Varsity Club, which provides broad-based support for the University’s 38 intercollegiate teams, and the launch of the Princeton Academic-Athletic Fellows program, through which faculty and administrators provide support to each team.

“Beyond the numerous national championships, Ivy League titles, coaching accolades, student-athlete awards, and new facilities that flourished under his leadership, Gary’s most enduring legacy will be his commitment, both on campus and off, to education through athletics,” said Cynthia Cherrey, vice president for campus life at the university. “That philosophy aims for both academic and athletic achievement for each student athlete and emphasizes character-based coaching.”

When he steps down, Walters will be appointed to serve in a volunteer role as an academic athletic fellow-at-large.

As an undergraduate, Walters was the starting point guard on the 1965 NCAA Final Four men’s basketball team with Bill Bradley. Walters led the 1967 team to a 25-3 record, the best in school history at the time, and a top-five national ranking.
In 1970, Middlebury College hired Walters as the youngest head basketball coach in NCAA history. He moved to Union College before returning to Princeton as an assistant coach in 1973. Walters served as head coach at Dartmouth College and Providence College and in 1980 was selected to coach at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

 In 1981 he joined Kidder, Peabody & Co. as an investment representative. He left as a senior vice president and partner in 1990 to become senior partner of Woolf Associates Sports Management in Boston, and in 1992 became managing director of Seaward Management, an investment advisory firm. He returned to Princeton as athletic director in 1994.

A search to find a successor will commence this fall. Cherrey will chair a committee that will include faculty, administrators, alumni, coaches and students.