UMass Lowell AD Skinner Will Retire
LOWELL -- Dana Skinner has done plenty of legacy-leaving at UMass Lowell, helping the River Hawks’ athletic program take flight while making the transition from an NCAA Division 2 institution to Division 1.
For more than three decades Skinner has been an integral and vital cog in all the games UMass Lowell’s student-athletes play, serving as the River Hawks’ director of intercollegiate athletics for the past 23 years.
With UMass Lowell having successfully completed the move up to college athletics highest level of competition in all sports, a comprehensive five-year process that was formally completed last summer, Skinner has decided the time is right for him to step down as athletic director in September.
“Every dog has its day, I guess,” said Skinner, who will turn 63 in September. “I’ve kind of run my full course, I think at UMass Lowell. Thirty-one years is a long time.
“My first year, 1987, our men’s basketball team won the Division 2 national championship (at the culmination of the 1987-88 season). My last year, we just completed our first full year as an active member of Division 1. So those are two good bookends and an awful lot happened in between.”
During his tenure, UMass Lowell has invested nearly $80-million in construction and renovation projects of the university athletic facilities, including the Tsongas Center, LeLacheur Park, the Costello Athletic Center, the Campus Recreation Center, the Cushing Field Complex, the Riverview Field Softball Complex and the UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boathouse. He also helped develop the Campus Recreation Program to what it is today, providing intramural, club sport and fitness opportunities to all students.
“Dana has made a profound and lasting impact not only on the River Hawks’ athletic program, but on the university as a whole,” UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said in a prepared statement. “UMass Lowell is extremely fortunate to have had someone with Dana’s vision, commitment and competitiveness at the helm of our athletic department, and as a member of our senior leadership team, during such a transformative era. We are thankful for all that he has accomplished.”
Skinner will be replaced by Peter Casey, who has served as UMass Lowell’s deputy director of athletics since 2013.
“Peter has earned his stripes,” said Skinner. “He has been with me for 15 years. While I was directing the Division 1 process, Peter was handling the day-to-day operations. He earned everyone’s respect. He’s a hard worker. He has integrity. He’s committed to excellence. Peter has earned this opportunity.”
Skinner knows there is more to college athletics than a team’s record. He is a firm believer that sports can be used to promote positive social change. Skinner took pride in the River Hawks’ many community engagement efforts with the Special Olympics, the National Youth Sports Program, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Team Impact.
“I know in this business we are measured a lot by wins and losses,” said Skinner. “But I have to be honest with you, for me it’s more about the individual stories that I’m going to remember. It’s the David Boutin’s of the world (a former River Hawk baseball star who passed away after a battle with cancer). I was at hockey game a few years ago when a young man came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Skinner you probably don’t remember me but the National Youth Sports Program saved my life.’ We ran that program for 17 years for Lowell’s children.
“You’ve got stories like Noelle Lambert (a women’s lacrosse player, who after losing her left leg in a moped accident, came back to play this season). You’ve got individuals like Shannon Hlebichuk, in field hockey, and Christian Figueroa, in (men’s) soccer, who started as 18-year-old student-athletes and who are now directing Division 1 athletic programs (at UMass Lowell). So it’s more those individual stories that really fill a lifetime.”
Skinner’s energy, focus and drive shines through in all that he has done for the UMass Lowell.
“We’re clearly going to miss him, he was such an integral part of not only the athletic department, but the university,” said UMass Lowell men’s basketball coach Pat Duquette. “It’s such a hard, challenging process (transitioning from Division 2 to Division 1), and having his leadership, his positive attitude, really help carry a lot of the coaches through the tough times.
“He has such a healthy perspective. He’s one of the most competitive guys I know. He really wants to win and he gives you the support and resources you need. Yet, he’s incredibly genuine. He’s fair. He’s honest. He truly cares about the coaches and the student-athletes.”
Skinner was a Division 2 All-American basketball player for Merrimack College. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the third round of the NBA draft and played briefly for the Maine Lumberjacks of the Continental Basketball Association. He later became head coach of the New England Gulls of the Women’s Professional Basketball Association.
Skinner was named the Division 2 NACDA Northeast Athletic Director of the Year in 2003. He was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.
“I take a lot of pride in the manner in which we’ve used the athletic program to help strengthen the community,” said Skinner. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many great people to use sports to help improve individual lives.”
Material from a UMass Lowell press release was used in this report. Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi