By Tom Kirch and Nazifa Islam

The NIRSA Honor Award Committee is excited to announce that Maureen “Moe” McGonagle has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 NIRSA Honor Award! The NIRSA Honor Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed by our Association. It is awarded annually and celebrates a NIRSA member who has provided exemplary service to the Association and made incredible achievements in the field of collegiate recreation over the course of their career. There is no doubt that Maureen McGonagle is an outstanding choice to receive this year’s NIRSA Honor Award!

Maureen McGonagle, NIRSA Honor Award Recipient 2015 Moe has been a NIRSA member for almost thirty years, was NIRSA President from 2006–2007, and has served on countless committees, commissions, and work teams—including, but not limited to, the Nominations and Appointments Committee, the Career Opportunities Committee, the Region III Award of Merit Selection Committee, the Student Professional Development Committee, the Commission for Sustainable Communities, and the Annual Conference Program Committee. Beginning early in her career, Moe has continuously demonstrated a strong commitment to the profession and the Association; she is a living example of the value of service championed by collegiate recreation.

Lead On, Moe

When she was only an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Moe came up with the idea for the very first NIRSA Region III Lead On. She shared the idea with one of her mentors, the late Mike Dunn—who himself received the NIRSA Honor Award in 1999—and he provided her with the support and encouragement needed to make the idea of a regional student workshop a reality.

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Tom Jones, who was awarded the NIRSA Honor Award in 1988, recalls how “Moe ran with the idea and recruited a committee, sought regional leaders as speakers, obtained the most centralized location in the region (IUPUI), did all of the planning, named the event Lead On, and conducted an amazing first-time program which has become one of NIRSA’s featured activities for 25 years.” There are now student Lead Ons in every NIRSA region, and they are a staple professional development opportunity for those aspiring to a career in collegiate recreation. Tom unequivocally labels Moe the “‘Mother’ of Lead On.”

Answering a call to service

Moe’s auspicious start in the collegiate recreation field did in fact predict great things to come from a true leader in the field. The NIRSA Honor Award is only the latest in a long line of awards and recognitions she’s received; Moe is the recipient of the IIRSA Service Award, the NIRSA Region III Award of Merit, five NIRSA Service Awards, and the Horace Moody Award among other distinctions. The Horace Moody Award recognizes NIRSA professional members who have made contributions to student development by their encouragement, support and performance. Moe’s career has been defined by her passionate dedication to mentorship—a fact that is acknowledged by her mentors, peers, and mentees alike.

Tom Jones says, “Maureen has mentored so many ‘youngsters’ it is just incredible. She is not just their friend—she sets high standards and demands they strive hard for excellence.” Her peers are equally effusive in their praise of her mentorship skills. Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President of University Recreation at Central Michigan University, says that Moe’s “most valuable assets are her mentoring abilities and communication and interpersonal skills. Her contributions to student development in NIRSA are not matched by many professionals in our field.”

Greg Jordan, Director of the Department of Campus Recreation at Oakland University, put it this way: she is “an exceptional human being who has dedicated herself to the advancement of students, our profession, and our NIRSA. She is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives through recreational sports and through our profession.” And Eric Nickel, Director of University Recreation at James Madison University, doesn’t hesitate to say that Moe’s “passion for the development of others and her relationship with students in our field—rivaled only perhaps by J. Michael himself—in many ways transformed the NIRSA culture and made the leaders in NIRSA much more approachable and available to these young professionals.”

But perhaps most telling is how mentees discuss Moe’s incredible influence. Megan Krone, Program Assistant, Intramural Sports & Sport Clubs at San Diego State University, says that Moe’s “honest words and support have encouraged me to trust myself and my capacities in challenging circumstances and in the best situations. I am grateful to have learned that the best way to contribute to the profession I love is to lift others up so that we can all grow together, building better campuses and better selves. I am inspired by the contagious energy Moe has for her work and her role in making the world a kinder, more just place.”

Joanna Prociuk, Associate Director, Programs at Florida Atlantic University says, “The foundation of what I know campus recreation and professionalism to be is rooted in Moe. The lessons she taught me about service, strategy, ethics, and purpose are now being passed on to my students—she is literally impacting undergraduates on my campus, not just hers. Moe has been with me for every professional challenge and celebration that I’ve had in this field and I cannot imagine how my career would have unfolded without her.” Through her dedication to mentoring, Moe has made incalculable—if intangible—contributions to furthering the collegiate recreation profession.

Building better campuses and better selves

“One thing that I have learned from Moe is what it truly means to serve,” says Lisa Stuppy, Senior Associate Director of Campus Recreation at Boise State University. “She once told me that it’s our honor and privilege to serve the profession and those around us. I have never forgotten her words as they have helped me to become more involved, more inquisitive, and more giving of my time. I can’t imagine that I am the only one that she has affected in this way.” Lisa goes on to say, “I feel extremely fortunate to have met Moe and been adopted as a mentee. I am a better professional but, more importantly, a better person because of Moe. She is someone that I am truly proud to call a friend.”

Moe has sincerely embraced the honor and privilege that is service to the collegiate recreation profession. Over the years, she has taken on a positively staggering variety of NIRSA service opportunities. Moe has hosted several state workshops, multiple Lead On workshops, and a national symposium; served as IIRSA State Director, as the IIRSA Finance Committee Chair, on the NIRSA Services Corporation Board, on the NIRSA Foundation Board, on the inaugural NIRSA Assembly, on the faculty of the School—twice as chair; chaired the Annual Conference Program Committee six times; and led the NIRSA 50th Anniversary Celebration Task Force.

Almost inconceivably, Moe has presented at least one educational session every single year that she has been a NIRSA member—that’s over 90 professional presentations in 28 years. She also wrote a chapter for Campus Recreational Sports and has penned a number of articles for the NIRSA News. Not surprisingly, Moe is known for saying, “I believe that if you can serve, you should.”

A leader in collegiate recreation

Her work for Centers LLC at DePaul University, where she’s been the Director of Campus Recreation since 1998, also exemplifies her passion for the field. Moe founded the Department of Campus Recreation at DePaul, and William “Bill” Healey—Director of Recreation and Sports Services at the University of West Florida—observes that Moe “opened an award-winning facility in 1999, generates over $3 million in non-student fee revenue, has hired and trained a well-respected professional staff, and has served as a consultant or facilitator to ten other universities throughout the country.” Many professionals, Stan confides, “have used her program as a model when benchmarking excellence.”

While striving to create DePaul’s enviable campus recreation program, Moe continued to work towards bettering the Association. It was during her 2006–2007 tenure as NIRSA President that the Association began to reassess its governance model. Stan recalls how Moe “worked tirelessly to garner feedback from the membership, and began the lengthy and important governance change. Her determined leadership and steadfast commitment to a better NIRSA resulted in the changes we have experienced in NIRSA.” Tom Jones credits Moe with being a “driving force in the successful creation of our current governance system,” and Sarah Hardin, Associate Director at DePaul University Campus Recreation and former chair of the Member Network, believes that Moe’s “work on the Governance Task Force” is among “her efforts of greatest significance.”

Another major undertaking Moe embraced was helping the faculty overhaul the curriculum for the NIRSA School of Collegiate Recreation. Stan and Loretta Capra, Director of Campus Recreation at Colorado State University, recall working with Moe as faculty members for The School during that period of transition. Stan says Moe “was instrumental in changing the curriculum, and helped to champion” the Level I/Level II model. Her contributions as Chair allowed great development of this initiative, and her leadership was instrumental in creating a new model for how The School is implemented today.” Loretta recalls that Moe believed “it was important they receive meaningful instruction combined with critical assessment skills that could carry them into the next phase of their careers.”

Celebrate your 2015 NIRSA Honor Award recipient

NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation would not have flourished as it does today without Moe McGonagle. The Association’s current governance structure, the existence of the J. Michael Dunn Scholarship Fund, sustainability ambassadors, IIRSA’s financial model, and Lead On—all of these things resulted from Moe’s hard work and dedication to an association she loves.

Bill Healey calls her “one the most active NIRSA members” he knows, and Greg Jordan believes “that Moe’s leadership, work ethic, and philosophy are contributing to maintain our professional standards.” When looking at Moe’s dedication to NIRSA alongside her mentorship and her work in the field at large, Bill’s assessment that “she overwhelmingly deserves our organization’s highest honor” is obviously incredibly apt.

Join your colleagues in congratulating Moe at the 2015 Honor Award Banquet, the closing, gala event of the 2015 NIRSA Annual Conference & Recreational Sports Expo. Learn more about how registered attendees can reserve their seats/tables in advance.


Tom Kirch retired in 2014 as the Recreational Sports Director at Oregon State University. He received the NIRSA Honor Award in 2013 and is the current Chair of the Honor Award Committee.

If you have questions, please contact the Honor Award Committee member Chair, Tom Kirch or NIRSA Headquarters Liaison to the Honor Award Committee, Breeana Myatt.