University of New Haven's New Athletics Director: 'I Found the People I Can Spend my Future With'
Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., brings more than 25 years of experience in athletics administration, development, and coaching to the University. He looks forward to enhancing the experience of our student-athletes and to taking Charger athletics to the next level.
September 6, 2019
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., visited the University of New Haven this summer to interview for the athletics director position, he was supposed to stay for two days – but he ended up staying for seven. He was impressed by the University's leadership, coaches, and students, and he quickly knew he wanted to be a part of Charger Nation.
"I've been asked, 'Why the University of New Haven?' My answer is, 'Come visit, and you'll see what I saw,'" said Zenger, who was officially introduced as the University's new director of athletics and recreation during an introductory press conference yesterday. "I found an athletics department with student athletes and coaches who are committed and who have a rich history of excellence."
"At the University of New Haven, I have found a place where I get to join the University community to do four things I enjoy the most: lead student athletes and coaches, teach, fundraise, and coach."Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D.
Tasked with directing the University's early exploration of a potential move to the Division I level, Zenger takes over the University's athletics program that has long been one of the best Division II programs in the region. His responsibilities include fundraising, creating a new comprehensive strategic plan for athletics, integrating sports across the entire campus community, and developing new opportunities for strategic alliances and partnerships, while enriching the experience of all student-athletes, fans, and athletic supporters. He also oversees all University recreational programs and activities.
Most recently, Zenger served as an assistant to the chancellor at Texas Christian University and an adviser to the director of athletics. From 2011 to 2018, he was director of athletics for the University of Kansas, a prominent Division I program, where he raised tens of millions in funds, built nine athletic buildings, and created a culture of collegiality in the athletic department. The school's teams combined to make nearly 70 post-season appearances.
He previously served as director of athletics for Illinois State University and he also worked in athletics administration and in coaching at Kansas State, the University of Wyoming, the University of South Florida, and Drake University.
Zenger said he would ensure that coaches and staff members lead with humility, hard work, and loyalty, emphasizing that "we're all educators and teachers first."
"Nothing else on earth brings people of all backgrounds together in a healthier way than athletic competitions," Zenger continued.
During his visit to the University, Zenger, who earned his doctorate in educational policy and leadership at the University of Kansas, and University of New Haven President Steven Kaplan discovered a mutual love of literature and that they were both once English majors. They have already started to jointly teach a seminar this semester for students in the University's Honors Program.
Zenger credits his parents for instilling in him a passion for learning and higher education. They both were professors at Fort Hays State University, where Zenger played football, before completing his bachelor's degree in English/secondary education at Kansas State University.
A Kansas native, Zenger and his wife, Pam, have been married for nearly 30 years and have three children. Dedicated to giving back to the community, he is actively involved with several athletics and higher education organizations, including the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
"At the University of New Haven, I have found a place where I get to join the University community to do four things I enjoy the most: lead student athletes and coaches, teach, fundraise, and coach," said Zenger. "I found a place that exemplifies the saying, 'buildings don't make places, people make places.' I found the people I can spend my future with."