Last Thursday, the Manhattan Jaspers and Fordham Rams met again at center court in Draddy Gymnasium. Only this time, the two Bronx rivals didn’t come together for a basketball game, but to celebrate the formal introduction of Marianne Reilly as Manhattan’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“That is the beauty that lies in athletics,” Reilly said to the audience of Jaspers, Rams, administrators, coaches, student-athletes and reporters that filed into the facility to welcome a new era of Manhattan College athletics.
Reilly is a 1982 graduate of Manhattan College, a member of the first women’s basketball Division I program and the first woman to be inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“This was a perfect homecoming for me,” she said. “It all came full circle.”
“Wow, it’s just great,” Lisa Toscano, professor of kinesiology at Manhattan and a former teammate of Reilly on the basketball team, said. “You could just see how she deserved it then and that she deserves it now. It’s continued success and it’ll be great.”
Today, she is the first female athletic director in the college’s history and the third in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“It’s groundbreaking,” Casey Silvestri, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee said. “We’re on the right side of history here. I know that from a student athlete’s perspective, we are very excited. She’s a phenomenal candidate.
Following the sudden departure of previous athletic director Noah LeFevre in January, the Jaspers found solace in Tom O’Connor. O’Connor served as interim athletic director and spearheaded the search for a qualified, permanent candidate for the position.
The search committee consisted of the Vice President for Student Life Richard Satterlee, trustee members Michael Passarella and Fred Marro, professor Shawn Ladda, Vice President for Human Resources Barbara Fabe and Silvestri.
The process took two and a half months, as the committee members reviewed over 50 applicants. As the list was narrowed down to just four finalists, it was Reilly who had the spark that the committee wanted.
“You heard it today,” Satterlee said. “Not only 30 years of experience, not only a firm understanding of Division I college athletics, but this special connection with the college.”
What made Reilly stand out from the other applicants was her résumé, Silvestri said. She noted all of Reilly’s accomplishments and how it was a big perk that Reilly was also the first woman to receive an athletic scholarship at Manhattan.
“She seems really invested in whatever she does,” Silvestri said. Her résumé speaks for itself. You could tell genuinely in her interviews that her heart lies with Manhattan.”
Reilly spent the past 30 years at Fordham University, where she served on the leadership team of Fordham’s athletic department.
There, she experienced the program change conferences on three different occasions, oversaw all seven of the Rams’ athletic facilities undergo extensive renovations and aided the development of many teams into conference contenders and champions.
“As different as we are, we are actually very similar,” Reilly said of the relationship between Manhattan and Fordham. “We are in New York. We are in the Bronx. We don’t have a huge footprint, so they struggle with the same challenges we do here.”
At the event, many of Reilly’s Fordham colleagues were in attendance among Jaspers to show support for a woman who made such an impact on their department.
“I think that it’s a credit to her, from what she’s about,” Steve Masiello, Manhattan’s head basketball coach said. “People from our rival school want to see her do well and wish her well here. Manhattan is bringing back a competent, successful administrator that we believe is going to take us to the next stage as far as leadership.”
Stephanie Gaitley, head coach of Fordham’s women’s basketball team, was recruited by Reilly to turn the program around five years ago. In 2014, the Rams did just that by winning the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Championship.
“My tears today are enough to tell you how hard it was for her to go,” Gaitley said. “The happiness that I had working for her is the sadness I have now. I am jealous now of the athletes and coaches who get to work with her.”
As Reilly begins to settle into her new position, what she is looking forward to the most is getting to know the student athletes.
“That’s what I come to work everyday for,” she said. “I think there is a mutual respect there. I treat all my student athletes as if they were my own kids.”
“Being a leader of a department, getting to know the students is paramount,” Masiello said of Reilly. “That is something we pride ourselves on and I think that’s an area she’s going to excel in, especially being a former student athlete. I think she’ll have awareness to the student athlete’s needs and be really in tune with them.”
During her speech, Reilly pulled out her basketball uniform and travel bag from when she was a student athlete for the Jaspers in the 1980s.
“I’m finally returning it,” she joked to the audience.
The jersey, and Reilly herself, have finally returned home.