Athletics Director Emeritus Fran Shields to retire from Conn after 43 years
Fran Shields P’14, who guided the Connecticut College men’s lacrosse program into national prominence, improved the competitiveness of the school’s 28 sports in the NESCAC, significantly enhanced athletics fundraising and enriched the lives of countless student-athletes, is retiring after a 43-year career on the New London campus.
The late Director of Athletics Charles Luce hired Shields in fall 1980 as men’s lacrosse coach for a third-year varsity program. Shields would lead the team to a 170-138 (.552) record in 23 seasons, earning four Top 20 national rankings, an ECAC New England Division III championship in 1996, an ECAC second-place finish in 1998 and All-America recognition for 12 players. Between 1990-1998, Shields led the Camels to nine consecutive postseason appearances while posting an impressive 56-33 (.629) record against NESCAC competition. His program also provided student-athletes with travel experiences to Australia, England, Tampa, Charlottesville, San Diego and Philadelphia. He was named USILA Division III Coach of the Year in 1993.
Shields also served as chair of the NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Committee in 2011-2012 and as a committee member in 2009-2010. He has been a member of the NESCAC AD Executive Committee since 2011 and twice chaired the conference. He has also served on the NESCAC committee on the NCAA Sportsmanship and Woman of the Year selection since 2008.
In 2003, Shields was promoted to Athletics director. He spent the next 16 years overseeing Conn’s 28 intercollegiate varsity programs, supporting more than 500 athletes and supervising 18 adjunct faculty head coaches, 16 assistant coaches and nine support staff. He also oversaw $16 million in facilities improvements, including the construction of the artificial turf at Silfen Field and the Lee and Ann Higdon Fitness Center, the renovation of the South Tennis Courts, the installation of an indoor Mondo-10 tennis playing surface in the Charles Luce Field House, the lighting of the turf field and track, improvements to spectator seating in Dayton Arena and the renovation of six team rooms and the athletic training room.
During Shields’s tenure as Athletic director, Camel teams improved their winning percentage against NESCAC competition, experienced a 40% increase in NESCAC playoff berths and hosted the school’s first NESCAC home playoff games. In 2014, the women’s soccer team won the school’s first NESCAC team championship. With Shields at the helm, Camel teams increased their number of NCAA championship berths and won all seven of the school’s individual NCAA championships. More than 75% of All-America honors for Camel student-athletes were earned under Shields.
In 2019, Shields became the inaugural director of the Camel Athletics Network in the Office of Advancement and athletic director emeritus. He has made significant contributions to campus as a member of the first Presidential Task Force on Athletics in 2002, the President’s Commission on a Pluralistic Community in 2003, the Connecticut College Strategic Planning Committee in 2004, the Strategic Plan Implementation Committee in 2017 and the College’s Master Plan Steering Committee. He helped the Athletics Department to be named the “Think S.A.F.E. Partner of the Year” in 2012, and has worked to educate all student-athletes in Green Dot violence prevention training and to fight homophobia in athletics and promote the “You Can Play” program. Throughout his career, he has worked to create and support youth camps, mentorship and tutoring programs, and local recreation and sports organizations.
A native of Geneva, New York, Shields earned a bachelor of science degree in physical education from St. Lawrence University in 1979 and a master of science degree in physical education from Ithaca College in 1985. He played lacrosse and was captain and a second team All-America at attack at St. Lawrence. He graduated with the school’s all-time record for points scored and has been inducted into the Geneva Athletics Hall of Fame and twice into the St. Lawrence University Athletics Hall of Fame.