Pioneering Eastern Nazarene College Athletic Director Dr. Nancy Detwiler will retire at the end of this academic year, completing a 52-year career that blazed new trails in college athletics.
The first female athletic director of a co-ed New England college – and one of the first in the nation – Detwiler amassed an impressive record as an Athletic Director and a coach. She served as ENC’s head women’s volleyball coach for 21 years, coaching her teams to six NAIA National Tournaments and earning NAIA District V Coach of the Year honors four times. For her efforts, she was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame, with a career record of 505-179. She also coached women’s basketball at ENC for 13 seasons, compiling more than 75 victories, and served as head women’s tennis coach for two seasons.
“For 52 years, Dr. Nancy Detwiler has brought leadership and incredible devotion to pioneering and building intercollegiate athletics at ENC,” said Jeffrey Kirksey, Vice President for Student Development and Retention. “She not only played a principal role in building and sustaining ENC athletics, but also positively impacted students as she invested her talents in a host of academic and student development functions and initiatives.”
Collegiate athletics pioneer
An Eastern Nazarene College alumna, Detwiler first assumed an athletic leadership role in 1963, when ENC President Dr. Edward S. Mann asked her to create a women’s basketball program. At the time, women’s basketball programs were virtually non-existent at small colleges, and the landmark Title IX law that would transform women’s collegiate athletics was still nearly 10 years away. But under Detwiler’s leadership, ENC’s women’s basketball team soon became a successful opponent against teams from much larger colleges such as Northeastern University, Boston College, Providence College and Boston University.
Detwiler also helped organize and later served as chairperson of the Massachusetts Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, which established guidelines and operating codes for all state intercollegiate competition and tournaments.
During Detwiler’s tenure as athletics director, ENC expanded from three men’s sports and two women’s sports to six sports for each gender. Graduation rates and grade-point averages among student athletes have increased, while nearly all of the college’s current coaches are full-time employees and professors. The college’s athletic facilities have also undergone a transformation under Detwiler’s leadership. During her half century with ENC athletics, all of the campus’s original athletic facilities have undergone significant upgrades.
“When Dr. Mann asked me to start a women’s basketball program, I had no idea at that time what an incredible journey it would be to accept that challenge,” Detwiler said. “It became my life ministry to seek God’s best in all that was possible for Eastern Nazarene College athletics.”
Detwiler credited former ENC Athletics Director Carroll F. Bradley with demonstrating the impact a teacher, mentor and coach could have on students. Bradley, she said, was “a Christian educator who made working fun; he loved students, teaching and especially ENC.”
Like Bradley, Detwiler also held significant academic leadership roles at ENC, serving as chair of the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management. She also serves as chair of the Social Science Division and on the Dean’s Advisory Council. Her retirement will be effective June 30.
“It has been my privilege to spend my career at a place as special as Eastern Nazarene College,” she said. “The essence of what I have accomplished is because of the people with whom I work and serve. They are professionals who believe that a Christian education sees no conflict between the development of the spirit, mind and body.
“I have been blessed to be surrounded by wonderful people who became my extended family,” she continued. “It is God working through people that helps students grow and seek areas of service. I am so in awe and appreciative to have been a part of this mission of ENC.”