Alanna Shanahan C’96 GEd’99 GrEd’15 is coming home.
In early June, Shanahan was appointed the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W’69 Director of Athletics and Recreation, starting July 19. She replaces M. Grace Calhoun, who spent seven years as Penn’s athletic director before taking the same job at Brown University in April [“Sports,” May|Jun 2021]. Rudy Fuller, a senior associate athletic director, has been serving as the interim AD.
“We set out to bring to Penn a trailblazing leader in intercollegiate athletics and that is exactly what we have with Alanna Shanahan,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in the release. “Alanna has the vision, experience, expertise, and energy to ensure that Penn Athletics continues its commitment to excellence both on and off the playing field.”
Shanahan has strong roots at Penn, playing lacrosse for the Quakers in the 1990s before an almost 20-year career at the University that began as an assistant women’s lacrosse coach. She rose through the administrative ranks as an assistant, associate, and senior associate athletic director, eventually serving as deputy director of athletics from 2012 to 2016 and executive director of the Penn Relays from 2011 to 2016.
She left her alma mater in 2016 to become the athletic director at Johns Hopkins University, where in 2019 she moved into a non-athletics role as the vice provost for student affairs.
“It’s an honor to return to Penn, a University and athletics department with a storied history which continues to excel today,” Shanahan said in a statement. “As a former Penn student-athlete, coach, and administrator, there is no place I’d rather be. The opportunity to lead a program that had such a profound impact on my life is a dream come true.”
As Penn’s deputy under former athletic director Steve Bilsky W’71 and later Calhoun, Shanahan managed all aspects of Penn’s 33-sport program with direct oversight of the football, basketball, and lacrosse programs—including recruiting, budgeting, Title IX compliance, academic services, and alumni relations. At Johns Hopkins, she guided the university’s 24-sport, mostly Division III athletic program to some of its most successful years, with 37 conference titles from 2016 to 2019, and also prioritized student well-being with the creation of several new programs and centers.
In a Zoom call with the media, Shanahan—who will become the fifth current female athletic director in the Ivy League—noted how special Penn is because of the opportunities it provided her as the first person in her family to go to college.
“For me, this return means so much more than just landing my dream job,” she said. “It really is personal in every sense of the word.” —DZ