Milestones

Yale’s biggest fan

The university’s longest-serving athletics director steps down.

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

Tom Beckett oversaw improved facilities, an enhanced athletics endowment, and 28 national championships during his 24 years as athletics director. View full image

After 24 years at the helm of Yale athletics, this spring season is the last for director of athletics Tom Beckett. In August, Beckett announced his retirement, starting a replacement search—and also kicking off a yearlong celebration of the legacy he helped shape as the longest-tenured athletic director in Yale’s history. “Yale gave me the opportunity of a lifetime,” Beckett said in the university’s announcement. “I have been honored to serve this great university for nearly a quarter of a century.”

His legacy easily lends itself to a list of impressive statistics: 28 national titles, dozens of Olympians, hundreds of All-Americans, and a nearly-$300-million athletics endowment. In just the last few years, Beckett has overseen unprecedented achievements in sports, including national championships in men’s hockey, squash, and heavyweight crew; an upset win for men’s basketball in March Madness; and a streak of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for women’s volleyball.

Beckett was hired in 1994, after 11 years as the associate director of athletics at Stanford. At Yale he quickly garnered praise for his work on facility improvements—he led 20 construction or renovation projects during his tenure—and for improving attendance at home games by offering free student admission. His own sterling attendance record at home events earned him the title “Yale’s biggest fan.” Brian Tompkins, former men’s soccer coach and now an associate athletics director, says, “Tom is as deeply committed an athletic administrator as I have ever met.”

Women’s gymnastics coach Barbara Tonry, one of the few coaches who predated Beckett at Yale, says that with his leadership, “women’s sports were given more equality.” One example: before he found a new space for vaulting, “we didn’t have a long enough runway. We had to run from my office through the hallway to vault.” She adds, “I’m going to miss him, I really am. He was one in a million.”

On July 1, Colgate athletic director Victoria Chun will take over Beckett’s role at Yale, but with a new title. The position was recently endowed in his honor; Chun will be the Thomas A. Beckett Director of Athletics.

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