Vassar Today

I Want to Win!

By Daniel Steckenberg ’06

There’s a contradiction in the personality of Vassar’s athletic director, Sharon Beverly: she is both disarmingly modest and a fierce competitor. She is not likely to talk about her accomplishments without some prompting, yet her aggressive side shows when she repeatedly says, “I want to win.” For Beverly, that’s not just a nice sound bite—it’s a mantra, as evidenced by her two years playing professional basketball in France and her 25 successful years coaching basketball, 15 of which were at the Division I level.

Beverly decided to move into the administrative side of athletics largely to marry the two sides of her personality. She had burned out from the all-year grind of running a Division I team and says, “I had to sit down and say, ‘Now what do I want to do?’ Administration seemed like the natural fit—I could still be involved in athletics and still do what I love to do. I want to win, so now I can be helping others to win.”

She shares that competitiveness with her husband, Super Bowl champion Randy Beverly, whose two interceptions helped his New York Jets defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III to achieve one of the most famous upsets in sports history. Sharon had “no idea” who Randy was when she met him. “I was coaching at my alma mater Queens College], and was just about to get some lunch with my students when a car pulled up alongside of us,” she says. Randy, who was driving, was a representative for a sneaker company; Sharon told him whose office he should go to. A few days later, when his professional duties were over, he came back—looking specifically for Sharon. Their competitiveness has served them well as a couple (though not as racquetball partners), and they have passed the trait on to their son, a forward for the Virginia Military Institute basketball team.

Before Beverly had spent even an hour on the job here at Vassar she had already accomplished something great. She is believed to be the only female African-American athletic director in Division III, a fact she calls “humbling. I lived through Dr. King’s era, and it’s just sad that we still have these barriers to break.”

Yet she is likely to deflect questions about herself in favor of talking about her work with Vassar’s Athletic Department. “I think the most important thing I strive to do is help each program be as competitive as possible, and to have as much equity within our program as we can,” she says.

Respecting Vassar’s tradition of academic excellence, Beverly says the most important thing the department can do is recruit “qualified student athletes. To bring in someone who does not have the academic background to be successful fails everyone. It fails the students because they are not going to be able to succeed academically, and it fails the program because they may be able to contribute for a year, but then eventually they are going to end up academically ineligible.”

Beverly has big plans for Vassar. She wants to build a proper baseball field (the current facility doesn’t have an outfield fence or dugouts) and a turf field for the field hockey team, and she wants to see Vassar “consistently vying for Liberty League championships in the majority of our sports.”

For now Beverly is content to work behind the scenes toward Vassar’s success, a process she hopes won’t take too long. “We put our graduates into the world and we want them to excel; that’s what our education is all about,” she says. “And when we put our student athletes on the field we want them to have that same confidence, that they can excel in their sport. To me, winning should be a natural fit for Vassar, because I think we’re winning at everything else.”