WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Lori Runksmeier, who has spent nearly 25 years in athletic administration – the last 16 as director of athletics at New England College – has been named the eighth director of athletics at Eastern Connecticut State University, it has been announced by University President Dr. Elsa M. Nunez.
Cynthia Washburne has served as interim director of athletics since Dr. Jeff Konin resigned as director of athletics in November of 2013. Runksmeier will officially begin her tenure Aug. 7.
At New England College – an NCAA Division III institution of 1,000 undergraduates affiliated with the North Atlantic Conference – Runksmeier oversaw 19 intercollegiate programs, as well as club and recreation sports and served as an adjunct faculty member in the kinesiology department. Under Runksmeier, the NEC athletic department added seven programs and a lighted turf field for field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and club and recreation sports and conducted facility renovations to its indoor practice facility and outdoor fields, hockey rink, and athletic training room.
“Eastern is fortunate to have Lori Runksmeier as our new director of athletics,” said Ken Bedini, vice president for student affairs. “She brings with her a wealth of experience which includes serving the North Atlantic Conference, the NCAA Division III governance structure and in student affairs administration on her home campus. These experiences are a great fit for Eastern and we are excited for the leadership she will provide to our University community.”
Runksmeier says that she was initially attracted to the position because of the “competitiveness of the program. That’s the intriguing part, the exciting part about the position. Eastern has a great reputation in New England for its athletic program. (Winning) matters. We keep score. It makes it more fun to go to work if you’re working on getting to the next level.
“I would like it to be more the rule than the exception that we qualify for the NCAA tournament,” adds Runksmeier. “I would like a couple of teams a year to go really deep into the NCAA tournament, and every once in a while have a shot at the national championship. That’s where I’m hoping we can get Eastern to, and I honestly do believe that the foundation is there (but) there is going to be some work to do. It comes down to resources. I need to get out and work on resources that can help the coaches win.”
For the past three years, Runksmeier has been a member of the NCAA Division III Management Council, also serving previously as the council’s vice chair and previously as chair of the NCAA Division III Interpretations & Legislation and Women’s Ice Hockey committees.
Prior to her appointment at NEC, the Ledyard, IA native spent three years as coordinator of athletic department relations at Division III College of Saint Benedict after serving as administrative assistant to the director of women’s athletics at Division II St. Cloud State University for four years and as assistant sports information director at Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato for one.
Runksmeier feels that her responsibilities to student-athletes are “a combination of raising responsible leaders and citizens and being excellent in athletics. I think athletes play because they want to get better and they want to succeed and I want them to have that opportunity, but I also want them leaving here with a good foundation to be a great adults. Those two things are pretty important to me.”
Runksmeier holds a B.S. Degree in Physical Education and English and an M.A. in Athletic Administration, both from Minnesota State, Mankato.
Eastern has been a member of the Division III Little East Conference since its inception in 1986. This past year, the Warriors won championships in men’s and women’s basketball and softball -- qualifying for the NCAA tournament in each -- and also reached the conference tournament final in women’s volleyball, men’s lacrosse and baseball. The head coaches of Eastern’s 17 intercollegiate programs have a combined 130 seasons of head coaching experience at Eastern.