DePaul Extends Jean Lenti Ponsetto's Contract Through 2017
Oct. 23, 2012
CHICAGO – DePaul University has announced that athletics director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has signed a five-year contract extension that will run through the 2016-17 academic year. As one of the nation’s most respected intercollegiate leaders, Ponsetto is in her 38th year as a member of the DePaul athletics family as a student-athlete, coach and administrator.
“Jean Lenti Ponsetto is among the most respected athletics directors in the United States,” said DePaul President Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider. “The NCAA, the BIG EAST and other athletic conferences turn to her constantly for advice and counsel. ESPN, CBS and other networks turn to her to understand developments in collegiate athletics and recently she received the Trailblazer Award by NACWAA from her peers.”
Ponsetto moved into her current position on July 1, 2002, and the Blue Demons have experienced tremendous success both on and off the playing field ever since. Improvements in fundraising , facilities, student-athlete welfare, and postseason participation by Blue Demon teams have grown under her watch.
Over the last eight years, Ponsetto led fundraising efforts amounting to more than $13 million, along with the creation of more than 25 endowed scholarships. Both of those figures represent the highest total of any athletics director in DePaul history. Among the many gifts during her tenure is the largest in DePaul athletics history to rename McGrath-Phillips Arena.
An advocate for student-athlete welfare, Ponsetto initiated and provided leadership for the Sullivan-McGrath Athletics Capital Campaign, which yielded the funding resources for the renovation of Wish Soccer Field, the creation of the Cacciatore Softball Stadium and renovation of the Cherry Family Indoor Track at the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center. She also spearheaded partnerships for DePaul’s track and golf programs and secured facilities for training and competition at Lane Stadium and Ruffled Feathers Golf Club.
During her 10 years at the helm of the department, 14 of the 15 Blue Demon athletic programs have represented the school in NCAA championships including 10 straight NCAA appearances by the women’s basketball team with two Sweet Sixteen appearances, two trips to the Women’s College World Series for the softball program, four men’s basketball postseason appearances in the NCAA and NIT, men’s soccer’s initial trip to the NCAA Tournament after winning the BIG EAST Conference regular season title, women’s soccer’s first NCAA appearance after winning a conference championship in 2003, and women’s tennis earning its first berth to the NCAA Championship in 2010.
Success also has come in the classroom during Ponsetto’s tenure as athletics director, as more than 1,200 Blue Demon student-athletes have been named to conference academic honor rolls. The men’s golf program made history by becoming the only team to be named the Academic National Champion by the Golf Coaches Association of America over three straight years. DePaul posted the top team GPA in 2009, 2010 and 2011. No other program has won the honor in back-to-back years.
Among the 15 programs in the BIG EAST Conference, the Blue Demons led the way academically with a league-best five teams claiming the BIG EAST Team Academic Excellence Award in each of the last two years. DePaul posted the top GPA in women’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s soccer, softball and women’s tennis to earn the 2010-11 BIG EAST academic honor prior to women’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s tennis in 2011-12. In the last four academic years, DePaul has had 21 programs earn the BIG EAST Team Academic Excellence Award with a department-best seven teams in 2008-09.
The 2008-09 academic year also saw the men’s track and field program post the highest cumulative grade-point average in the country by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Overall, DePaul’s student-athletes in 2009-10 registered the highest cumulative GPA in athletics history at 3.353.
Ponsetto currently serves on NACDA’s Executive Committee. In the spring of 2009, she was named Under Armour AD of the Year for the NCAA Division I Central Region. For the second time in her career, Ponsetto was presented NACWAA’s Administrator of the Year Award in 2003 and was the organization’s president in 2005-06. Most recently, she added duties as president of the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association (D1-AAA ADA) for 2009-10. Prior to being named president, she was the second vice president for the I-AAA Athletics Directors Association. She also chairs the Collegiate Women’s Sports Award’s Board of Directors which selects the top female athlete in the country each year and chairs the WBCA‘s State Farm Wade Trophy Committee which selects the top collegiate women’s basketball player each year.
A former four-sport standout for DePaul, Ponsetto boasts a wealth of experience in three areas of DePaul athletics: as a student-athlete, coach and administrator. She spent seven years as the senior associate director of athletics after serving 12 years as the associate director and two as an assistant director before assuming her current job in 2002.
Following graduation in 1978, she was named the school’s first assistant women’s basketball coach by then head coach Doug Bruno. Ironically, she then hired him as head women’s coach when he returned to that position in 1988.
Her work within the Chicago sports scene was been well noted. Ponsetto was named one of the top 100 most influential women in Chicago by the Chicago Sun-Times (she was ranked second in sports category behind Chicago Bears owner Virginia McCaskey) in 2004, and in the spring of 2003 she was awarded the Leonardo Da Vinci Outstanding Achievement in Education Award by the Sons of Italy. Ponsetto is a member of DePaul’s Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 whose membership includes Ray Meyer, Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas and Doug Bruno. She currently serves on the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors.