Valerie Cleary hired as Willamette's new director of athletics

by University Communications,

Willamette University has selected Valerie Cleary to serve as its next director of athletics.

Cleary has worked as the senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Portland State University since September of 2013 and was PSU's interim athletics director for several months. She will begin working at Willamette in late April.

Cleary has a significant range of experience, including senior administrative service in athletics at Portland State University, admissions work at Pacific University, and direction of student-athlete enhancement programs at Boise State University.

"Valerie's demonstrated capacity to excel at the core requirements of this position, alongside her familiarity with admissions, student support, and integration of athletics and academics, made her a natural choice for the position," said Willamette Dean of Campus Life David Douglass.

"Aside from her qualifications for the position, her strength of character and passion will make her a natural leader for our athletics program."

Cleary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2000 from California State University, Chico, with a major in social science and an emphasis in sociology, multicultural and gender studies. In 2003, she received a Master of Science degree from California State University, Long Beach in counseling with a focus on student development in higher education.

"I'm beyond excited," Cleary said after being chosen to lead Willamette's Athletics Department. "Willamette University is such a special place with a great potential for the future."

During her on-campus interview as part of the search process, Cleary was impressed with Willamette and its athletes.

"Two of the best things were the high academics and the involvement of the athletes on campus," Cleary said. "They are true student-athletes, and athletics is a key factor in campus life."

While working at Boise State from 2002 through 2008, Cleary held several positions.

She was an educational specialist helping with BSU's Educational Talent Search for one year, then worked for three years as the coordinator of the TRIO Dissemination Partnership.

She became the academic advisor and BroncoLIFE coordinator for the Athletics Department in 2006. Cleary was named the director of student-athlete enhancement programs in 2008.

At Pacific, she was the assistant director of undergraduate admissions from September of 2010 through October of 2012. She was promoted to associate director of undergraduate admissions in October of 2012.

In September of 2013, Cleary became the senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Portland State. She was the interim director of athletics at PSU from October of 2014 through January of 2015, while the Vikings were hiring a new director of athletics.

Willamette selected Cleary through a broad and extensive search process.

"Our national search resulted in a remarkably large and talented pool of candidates, setting us up for this very positive outcome," said Jackie Balzer, chairperson of the athletics search.

"Throughout the search process, Valerie demonstrated her energy, passion and leadership skills. This is a very exciting time for Bearcat Athletics."

When she arrives at Willamette, Cleary will work with many employees across the campus in addition to guiding the efforts within the Athletics Department.

"My main plan is really getting to know the campus community and the whole Salem community," Cleary said. "Developing those relationships is going to be pivotal to the success of our department."

Cleary's husband, Tim Cleary, is the head men's basketball coach at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Willamette and Pacific compete in NCAA Division III and the Northwest Conference.