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Jacob Olkkola, an administrator and former coach who has held leadership roles at the University of Delaware and Harvard University, has been named the Harold Alfond Director of Athletics at Colby College following a national search. In this role Olkkola will oversee the continued transformation of Colby athletics into one of the nation’s premier Division III programs.
“We see in Jake a leader who will advance our progress toward a highly competitive athletic program and contribute to our efforts to build on an institutional culture that promotes the well-being of the entire Colby community,” said President David A. Greene. “We look forward to welcoming him to campus.”
Olkkola is currently senior associate director of athletics at the University of Delaware (UD). As a member of the senior leadership team for the last seven years, he had a role in helping teams achieve conference and national championships while overseeing the design and construction of UD’s award-winning athletic and recreation facility, the Carpenter Sports Building. As director of recreation services at Harvard, Olkkola led a club sports program of more than 30 sports that included approximately 900 student athletes.
“The search committee was particularly impressed by Jake’s relentless pursuit of comprehensive excellence, oversight of award-winning capital projects, and promotion of campus-wide health and wellness,” said Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matt Proto, who chaired the search committee. “With increased demand for a Colby education from highly qualified students and an all-new athletic complex underway, we see this as an especially important moment for Colby athletics, and we’re pleased to have Jake on board.”
Bernard Muir, the Jaquish and Kenninger Director of Athletics at Stanford University, who worked with Olkkola at UD, said, “Colby College has just made a tremendous hire in selecting Jake Olkkola to lead its athletics department. He is a passionate educator who demonstrates the utmost character and unwavering integrity. The Mules will thrive under his guidance and I’m excited for the coaches and student athletes who will benefit daily from Jake’s leadership.”
At the University of Delaware, Olkkola served as chief financial officer and as a senior administrator for the Department of Athletics and Recreation Services. He oversaw a program that yielded 10 national championships over the last seven years in the sports of field hockey, men’s ice hockey, figure skating, men’s volleyball, and women’s lacrosse. Additionally, he served as sport administrator for women’s outdoor track and field’s first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference championship. Olkkola also previously served as sport administrator for the UD women’s golf and baseball programs. Both of these programs have gone on to have tremendous success by each securing CAA tournament championships last year.
“Colby has found a great leader for its athletics program,” said Samantha Huge, director of athletics at William & Mary and a former colleague of Olkkola’s. “Jake Olkkola is a thoughtful and energetic leader, a collaborative colleague, and a generous spirit. When we worked together, I witnessed firsthand Jake’s ability to synergize his knowledge and experience into making all that he touched better than he found it.”
Colby’s search committee, which included faculty, staff, and students, was particularly drawn to Olkkola’s philosophy and approach. “It was evident that Jake worked from a team perspective—very collaborative in his approach,” said Dean of the College Karlene Burrell-McRae ’94. “I was pleased by his ability to articulate the importance of working towards an environment that was not only inclusive but that helped students think holistically.”
“I am humbled and honored to assume the responsibility of leading Colby athletics into a new era,” said Olkkola. “This is a dynamic time with many great opportunities on the horizon for Colby and for the city of Waterville. My family and I are beyond thrilled to become part of the Colby community.” Olkkola assumes his role at Colby in early July. He will be joined in Waterville by his wife, Michelle, and their three children.
Earlier this year, Colby announced its plans for a new, 350,000-square-foot athletic complex, which will position Colby to provide its community with first-rate athletic facilities across the board. Slated to open in 2020, it will be among the best Division III facilities in the nation and serve as a resource for the entire campus, as well as athletes in Waterville, the state of Maine, and New England. It will include an indoor track and field competition center, Maine’s first Olympic-sized pool, squash center, gymnasium, hockey arena, fitness center and studios, as well as training rooms and coaching suites. More information is at colby.edu/cac.
Later this year the College will open three new relocated competition and recreational fields, including a practice field, a competition soccer field, and the Bill Alfond Field, which will continue to be used for competition for field hockey and lacrosse. In 2016 Colby completed a new synthetic turf baseball-softball complex, making Waterville a destination for competition in both sports.