Penn Athletics’ search for a new athletics director has come to a close, as they announced the hiring of Alanna Shanahan to fill the role.
Shanahan replaces M. Grace Calhoun, who departed for Brown this past April. In her place, Rudy Fuller became the interim athletics director as Penn searched for its full-time hire.
Shanahan comes into the job with both a Penn background and experience as athletics director. During her time as an undergraduate at Penn, she was the captain of the women’s lacrosse team and after she graduated in 1996, she stayed on to work in numerous positions within Penn Athletics.
These positions included coaching gigs, such as assistant women’s lacrosse coach and interim women’s lacrosse head coach, as well as administrative roles, such as deputy director of athletics and senior woman administrator from 2012-2016 and executive director of the Penn Relays from 2011-2016.
Her Penn experiences appeared to be a factor in Shanahan winning over the support of those who hired her.
"We set out to bring to Penn a trailblazing leader in intercollegiate athletics and that is exactly what we have with Alanna Shanahan," Penn President Amy Gutmann said via Penn Athletics. "Alanna has the vision, experience, expertise, and energy to ensure that Penn Athletics continues its commitment to excellence both on and off the playing field. For nearly two decades, Alanna proudly donned the Red and Blue as a student-athlete, coach, and administrator. Today, we are thrilled to welcome her back home to Penn."
In 2016, Shanahan went to Johns Hopkins to assume the role of athletics director there and later became vice president for student affairs in 2019.
Despite her transition out of Johns Hopkins' athletics program and into more broad university functions, Shanahan said that she always sensed that she'd pivot back to athletics at some point.
In her introductory press conference, Shanahan referred back to her Johns Hopkins experience as one that helped her understand more about the roles and responsibilities she’s going to be taking on at Penn as well as one that grew her professional abilities.
Shanahan also emphasized bringing back athletics to full strength as one of her top priorities coming in.
“It’s a little tough, but I will say one of the first pieces is really helping the community get back on track in light of COVID,” Shanahan said. “I think there’s obviously a lot of healing that’s still happening as far as the challenges of this past year. I think hearing that, understanding it, but honestly moving us forward and getting us excited about the future and getting us back on the field and on the courts come August is really important.”
Additionally, Shanahan mentioned hearing about some facilities projects that Penn was working on and how she hoped such projects would be done under her watch in a way that aided student-athletes' experiences.
Shanahan will officially take over as athletics director effective July 19, 2021.
“The opportunity to lead a program that had such a profound impact on my life is a dream come true," Shanahan said.
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