“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson
As NIRSA continues to celebrate the diverse culture of campus recreation professionals (through avenues like caucus discussions), we want to take a moment to explore some seminal figures who have trailblazed the way for Black professionals to make an impact within and beyond NIRSA. I took time recently to speak with six NIRSA pioneers about why and how they have taken steps into leadership with NIRSA.
A common theme among the group was a sense of responsibility to carry forward—with courage and servant hearts—the torch set in motion by the original 20 Black founders of NIA.
Over the coming weeks, I invite you to explore the leadership journey of past, present, and future black leaders in NIRSA through the lenses of these six pioneers:
- Jocelyn Hill, Director of Recreational Sports & Fitness at American University
- Kevin Marbury, Vice President of Student Life at the University of Oregon
- Jean McClellan Holt, Assistant Director of Recreation & Wellness at Old Dominion University
- Juliette Moore, Retired Director at the University of West Florida
- Stan Shingles, Assistant Vice President at Central Michigan University
- Mirum Washington-White, Director of Athletics, Curriculum Chair for Physical Education, Dept Faculty at St Cyril of Alexandria School
About Juliette Moore
Juliette Moore began her recreational sports career in 1975-1976 as a graduate assistant in health and leisure studies at the University of West Florida. Juliette initially intended to go into teaching, but after landing a work-study job in recreational sports on campus, her life changed. The University of West Florida eliminated its intercollegiate athletics program in the fall of 1976 and expanded recreational offerings. She was hired on as a sport club coordinator at the University of West Florida after completing her master’s degree and worked there for nearly a decade.
Juliette got involved in NIRSA once she was hired as a fulltime professional at UWF. She started attending conferences and volunteered to serve on a number of committees. Bill Healey, Executive Director of Student Live at the University of West Florida, mentored her at those early conferences and introduced her to many people who served in influential positions in NIRSA. She then went on to serve as the NIRSA State Director for Florida for four years. She recounts her early service on the NIRSA Media Committee with Jill DeMichele, now Senior Development Officer at Arizona State University, as influential.
Juliette continued to climb the professional ladder in recreational sports and worked as Assistant Director of Recreation, Intramural Sports and Sport Clubs at Arizona State University. In this role, she oversaw women’s fitness and the women’s and CoRec intramural programs. Juliette stayed active in NIRSA after moving from Region II to Region VI and served as NIRSA State Director for Arizona for three years. While at ASU, she served as host for the 1988 Region VI Conference in Tempe, AZ. Thanks to Juliette’s outreach, this regional conference saw the reintroduction of Dr. Wasson’s involvement in NIRSA after a period when he wasn’t actively involved in the Association.
“We honored his presence at the conference and made him feel special, as he was the founder of NIRSA. He and Lee both attended the Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado in 1989 and they have attended ever since,” says Juliette. When Juliette discovered that he was paying for his own registration, travel, and accommodations, she saw an opportunity for NIRSA to step-up and honor its founders. She prepared a presentation to the NIRSA Board of Directors requesting financial support for all founders to attend the Annual Conference. “It was eventually approved,” says Juliette with pride, “but took time to get it through the Boards.”
After working at ASU, Juliette applied for the director position at ASU when it opened up. She was told that she needed more experience before they would consider her for the position so she applied for various associate director positions and eventually accepted a position at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA. She worked there for two years and remained actively involved in NIRSA.
In 1990, Juliette worked to start the People of Color Social. “I made a deal with then-President Judy Bryant that I would lead icebreakers for new members at the Annual Conference in exchange for the use of her suite for the social,” explains Juliette. “After a couple more years like this, it became an official, integral part of the Annual Conference program. Everyone is welcome to come and learn about and celebrate the history of NIRSA.”
During Juliette’s second year at James Madison, she received a call from Northern Illinois University (NIU) and was recruited to fill the open director’s position there. She served as Director for the NIU program for six years, where she remained extremely active in NIRSA, now as part of NIRSA Region III.
She experienced health issues while working at NIU, but that did not stop her from standing for election to serve as the NIRSA Vice President for Region III. On the day of her scheduled speech, she fell ill and was unable to attend the conference. She was not elected that year, but it did not stop her from standing for election to serve in the role of NIRSA President the following year. She was feeling better and was able to give her speech at the Annual Conference. “I won the election and became the first Black female President of NIRSA,” she says.
She served as President of NIRSA in 1998 and is a Past President of the Association. During her term of leadership, she experienced severe problems with her health. She was put on peritoneal dialysis for a year and had to undergo dialysis while at the Annual Conference during her term as past president. She eventually received the call for a kidney transplant and had the surgery the next year shortly after the January Annual Conference. Although she missed the conference that year, she made arrangements for others to continue hosting the POC Social.
Juliette stayed active in NIRSA during her 14-year tenure as the Director of Campus Recreation at the University of Arizona and was awarded the NIRSA Honor Award—the Association’s highest accolade—in 2012 in recognition of her extensive service to the Association. She served on the committee to establish NIRSA Legacy Contributors and served on the Expo Committee for two years. She reviewed presentations for the program committee in an unofficial consulting role. She has always been willing to give back to NIRSA and remains an active mentor to many in the field.
Juliette’s pathway into NIRSA leadership
In conducting interviews and doing research for these feature articles, I’ve heard and seen Juliette called “the conscience of NIRSA.” While her initial involvement with NIRSA grew from the passion that she had for campus recreation—and the significant role her campus recreation work experience played in her own college career, her involvement evolved to serve the students and founders of the organization as she actively engaged with the organization.
While we might not all know philosopher George Santayana, we probably all know his famous quote: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Juliette was an advocate for sharing and preserving NIRSA’s history. She spent a great deal of her time not only growing in her professional career but trying to honor and educate individuals about the foundation of NIRSA.
Her legacy speaks for itself: she is NIRSA’s first—and to date still only—Black female president; the Juliette Moore Distinguished Leadership Award—which recognizes those individuals who best exemplify the hard work and dedication that go into the continuing creation of a diverse and inclusive community—is named in her honor; and she founded the much-celebrated POC Social. She continues to follow what happens each year at the POC Social and attends when she can.
While she is among NIRSA’s most celebrated contributors now; recognition hasn’t always been quick in coming. She had to lobby leadership to get recognition as the first Black female President of NIRSA on the NIRSA history timeline. She explains, “I even began introducing myself as the first Black woman President of NIRSA at conferences.” Her proper respects were paid this year, however: Her role as the POC Social’s founder, and her trailblazing firsts—first Black woman President and first Black woman to receive NIRSA’s Honor Award—are highlighted on the timeline, thanks to support from Stefani Plummer, Director of the Rec Center at California Baptist University and Seneca Wilson, Associate Director of Facilities and Guest Services at the University of Alabama Birmingham (and an email to the women past presidents and the NIRSA Executive Director).
Importantly, there is now a task force that will review NIRSA’s history and legacy and make lasting changes.
Juliette’s call to service
Juliette currently works in the anthropology department at the University of West Florida and remains actively engaged with NIRSA. “I’m hoping to witness the equity, diversity, and inclusion changes that have been strived for in this organization,” she says.
Juliette hopes to see the work of the Black community in NIRSA continue to grow and for professionals to continue making new connections. She hopes to see leaders like Wendy Windsor, Director of Campus Recreation at Tulane University and Stefani Plummer continue to step into higher profile leadership positions “and even aim for NIRSA Presidency,” she says. She plans to continue mentoring within NIRSA and helping grow the young leaders in this profession, because she paved the way boldly so that they could succeed unapologetically.
Shine a spotlight on your mentor
NIRSA has a great history and the opportunity for a bright future. Our founders and the Black leaders who have come after them have set an example for all of us—they encourage us to actively engage and be the change we want to see on our campuses, in this profession, and within our association.
I’m proof that, as young professionals, we have the opportunity to connect directly with the leaders mentioned in this series.
If you are a leader in collegiate recreation or strive to be, then I invite you to be brave and use your voice. Reach out to me if you’re interested in contributing an article to honor a pioneering Black leader and inspire the next generation of NIRSA leadership.
We will not be an organization that repeats its past or gets stuck in its present. Instead, we will connect with our past and set course for our shared future with a mindset that everyone is welcome on the journey. The future is in you!
- For more information, contact Katherine Geter, Coordinator of Rec Sports & Family Programs for University of Houston’s Campus Recreation.
- If you are interested in highlighting your campus or a NIRSA member’s achievements on your campus, pitch us your ideas.