Sporting Life

“A certain expectation of excellence”

Vicky Chun, the first woman to oversee Yale sports, has high standards.

Evan Frondorf ’14, a risk analyst in San Francisco, writes frequently about sports for this magazine.

Micheal Marsland

Micheal Marsland

New director of athletics Vicky Chun comes to Yale from Colgate, where she played and coached volleyball before becoming athletic director and vice president there. View full image

Vicky Chun was a standout athlete and coach at Colgate University. Then, 13 years ago, she returned to work there, eventually becoming its vice president and athletics director. How tough was it for a confirmed Colgate Raider to consider leaving that job behind to become Yale’s new director of athletics? “It was the chance to work at the greatest university in the world. It wasn’t really a hard decision for me,” says Chun. “I wanted this position from the get-go.” Yale turned out to be equally enthusiastic: President Peter Salovey ’86PhD named Chun as Yale’s AD in February, succeeding Tom Beckett after his 24 years at the helm.

Born in Santa Monica, California, Chun comes to Yale after six years as AD at Colgate, a stint in which she won acclaim for her commitment to facilities and to academics, achieving a 98 percent NCAA graduation success rate for athletes last year.

Her own athletic history included four years on the varsity volleyball team at Colgate (1987–91) and a stint coaching the team (1994–96), which allowed her the distinction of winning both Patriot League Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors. When she was named AD in 2013, she became the first female Asian-American athletic director in NCAA Division I history; she is both Yale’s first woman and first Asian-American to serve as AD.

Chun arrived at Yale in July. The verdict so far? “It’s everything I thought it would be,” she says. During the initial whirlwind weeks this summer, where Chun was meeting “literally everyone” at Yale, she was energized by “the excitement and the love for the place even from those who are relatively new. It’s addicting. It’s very addicting.”

Heading into her first academic year, Chun is beginning to formulate a vision—and a certain phrase keeps coming to her mind: “This is Yale.” “When someone comes onto campus, there’s a certain expectation of excellence, first-class treatment, and welcoming, and that is what I want,” she explains. “When I say, ‘This is Yale,’ I want the student-athletes to feel that they’re getting the best experience they could ever get. Our mission is to be excellent academically and athletically.”

That invites one more clarification: “And when I mean excellent, I’m talking the top one percent. I think the teams have proven it.”

Chun’s early goals include a focus on facilities, continuing Beckett’s long legacy of capital projects. “I would like to work on an internal facility upgrade, in terms of everywhere the student-athlete touches beyond the competitive field,” she says, adding an example. “The architecture of Payne Whitney is incredible—I’d love for the inside to match the outside.”

In the meantime, she’s also getting a crash course on Yale traditions, from songs (“I already have my handkerchief”), to Handsome Dan taking up residence in the Yale athletics offices (“the cutest and best mascot ever”), to press conferences in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (“uniquely Yale”). But she’s also learning that not all Yale traditions are so refined. “One tradition I’m not crazy about—I’m not sure about the Saybrook Strip,” she jokes. “That’s probably one I won’t participate in.”

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