New Director of Athletics Drew Galbraith brings a vision for addressing the whole student—and the entire student body
By Abe Loomis
Ask anyone who has met Director of Athletics Drew Galbraith to describe his personality, and you’re likely to hear the words “poised,” “calm,” and “focused.”
“There’s a quiet intensity to his bearing, and he is a really confident leader, both in his presence and in the way that he speaks,” says Kevin MacDermott, head men’s rowing coach. “Drew was incredibly impressive during the interview process, when candidates were brought onto campus. Since he’s taken the reins of the department, all of the attributes that were demonstrated during that process have manifested.”
Dean of Campus Life and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe DiChristina, to whom Galbraith directly reports, agrees.
“What I’ve seen from Drew is a very strong capacity to respond to people and to show a depth of understanding of their experience—the role they have, the responsibilities they have—and to be genuine with them. And I think that’s a great place to begin,” DiChristina says.
Galbraith comes to Trinity from Dartmouth College, where he served as senior associate director of athletics and, starting in 2011, also served as executive director of Dartmouth Peak Performance, a program he designed that integrates resources to help student-athletes achieve excellence.
Galbraith, who holds a law degree from William & Mary Law School and counts among his influences the classical Stoic philosophers Seneca the Younger and Marcus Aurelius, notes that his first job at Trinity—even before his arrival on campus in his official role in January—was to listen.
“I was hired in late October,” he says, “and throughout November and December, I took time to come down here and meet with every single coach one-on-one. I just spent time with them, learning about them and the programs they run and that they hope to run. When I arrived in early January to officially start working, I made it a point to get around and speak to every single varsity team.”
He also reached out to alumni of Trinity’s athletic programs, a group that is as passionate as any about life on campus. One such graduate is Monica Iacono Boss ’95, who was a walk-on starter on the Trinity field hockey team that garnered a legendary run of victories in the early 1990s, including its first NCAA Final Four appearance. An art history major who minored in legal studies, Boss earned an M.B.A. at Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business and says her experience at Trinity laid the foundation for the work she has done as a human-resources professional, a board member for an array of nonprofits, and a field hockey and lacrosse coach. When the search committee met with alumni around the country to discuss athletics at Trinity, Boss participated, and she also was part of a small group of alumni who met on campus with candidates.
“He absolutely understands the value of athletics,” Boss says. “And I get the sense he can really work well with everyone—from students all the way up to very accomplished alumni who may have long-term giving plans. I’m excited to see where the program goes. It’s obviously already a phenomenal program, but I think he will take it to the next level.”
The search committee also included Boss’s field hockey coach at Trinity, Robin Sheppard M’76, professor of physical education, emerita. Sheppard, who also served as associate director of athletics until her retirement in 2015, brought to the committee an awareness of the wide variety of tasks and skills required of a director of athletics.
“Traditionally, an athletic director was someone who had retired from the coaching sidelines and managed day-to-day operations within the department,” Sheppard says. “However, in this changing landscape of athletic administration, a more complex set of skills is required. Based on his time at Dartmouth and all he had successfully accomplished, I felt Drew was an excellent fit for Trinity Athletics.”
Galbraith counts Dartmouth Peak Performance among his proudest professional accomplishments. The program integrates services and resources across campus to help student-athletes achieve their highest potential personally, athletically, and academically, and it’s a model that aligns with Galbraith’s vision of athletics as an extraordinarily effective—and uniquely nimble—pedagogical space.
“We’re fortunate to have this wonderful learning laboratory called athletics,” Galbraith says. “We have an opportunity to put people in an environment that is challenging on a daily basis and to allow them to fail and then come back and have a redo opportunity—that’s something that doesn’t always exist.”
For Galbraith, who also serves as chair of physical education at Trinity, the goal is to do much more than just train great athletes.
“We have coaches who are master educators, and we have the opportunity to mold students around the idea of service leadership,” he says. “We’re trying to create students who lead themselves, and then, ultimately, we’re asking them to step into roles as team leaders. To me, leaders are people who are crafting that vision and then doing everything they can to support the team having success. That’s a real service position.”
One part of that service role is in encouraging and modeling inclusion, an opportunity that Galbraith places near the top of his list of priorities. “There’s no better environment than a team to learn to accept differences every single day,” he says, adding that on a campus like Trinity’s, students from around the world can forge lasting bonds, despite historical or geopolitical differences that may exist among their home communities. “You can actually learn to work with and love someone else because of those differences,” Galbraith says. “We have the opportunity to do that on a daily basis.”
Balancing service, academics, and sport has long been a hallmark of athletics at Trinity, an approach that has been deeply meaningful to generations of athletes, including Bill Cunningham ’87, P’19, ’21, a member of the college’s Board of Trustees. Now CEO of IAT Insurance Group, Cunningham played noseguard for four years at Trinity under retired football coach Don Miller. Cunningham describes his Trinity experience as “a great balance of playing the game I loved and being able to focus on my academic interests.” Like Boss, Cunningham met Galbraith during the interview process and says he was impressed by him as someone who “sees the whole student. He’s not just looking at a football player or a field hockey player. He understands the support they need along the way.”
For Galbraith, that means addressing not only student-athletes but also the entire student population.
“When you add the varsity athletes, the club athletes, the students who are participating in intramural sports, the students who are in all of our fitness programs, students who are taking PE classes, and the students who are coming in to use our fitness center, we’re, conservatively, hitting 85 to 90 percent of the student body in any given semester,” he says. “It’s exciting to see that energy around people living healthy lives, happy lives, and thinking holistically about their development while they’re here at Trinity.”
Still, winning matters. Galbraith calls athletic competition “one of the last great meritocracies.” He talks about what can be learned from striving for excellence—and victory— and he is looking at how new technologies and other innovations can help sustain and build on Trinity’s tradition of fielding exceptionally competitive teams.
But most important to Galbraith are the ways athletics can shape young people into healthy and effective leaders and citizens.
“Living a life of wellness. Getting people to understand the importance not just of regular exercise but of diet, of mental health, of making sure that they’re practicing good sleep hygiene. If we can embed some of those nuggets in the students we’re graduating from Trinity, they’re going to take those into the communities where they live and work, beyond Trinity, and be great citizens,” Galbraith says. “We’re developing really exceptional young people. It’s much bigger than the final score against Wesleyan on a Saturday afternoon.”