Sport management alumna Sandy Barbour has established an endowed fund with a $500,000 gift that will provide financial support for the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management’s ongoing initiative to best prepare women for careers in the sport and entertainment industry.
Barbour’s gift will specifically support the launch of a professional development summit held each June, beginning in 2024, on the Amherst campus that will be named in her honor. The donation includes a $250,000 estate gift.
“In 2021 we launched an ambitious multi-pronged initiative to provide professional development programming for our women students,” said Steve McKelvey, the chair of the sport management program. “The first prong of this initiative, our Women in Sport Business course for our current students, has been a tremendous success as the first-of-its-kind in sport management academia. Sandy’s gift will now enable us to expand this initiative to alumnae currently working in the industry as allow well as high school girls who are considering careers in sport business.”
Barbour, who earned her M.S. from UMass Amherst in 1983, recently retired after an eight year run as Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics at Penn State University, capping an illustrious career of leadership in college administration. She served as Director of Athletics at Cal from 2004-14, and as athletic director at Tulane University from 1996 until 1999, having joined the staff as an associate athletic director in 1991. Barbour, a recipient of the department’s Harold J. VanderZwaag Distinguished Alumnus Award, has also served in coaching and/or leadership positions within the athletics departments of Northwestern and Notre Dame.
"In order to remain the top-ranked undergraduate and graduate sport management program in the world, the department needs to continually assess and address the challenges that face the sport industry,” said Barbour. “Among the most pressing and important of those challenges is effectively preparing women to succeed in the industry and to ascend to a variety of leadership positions, as well as inspiring high school girls to pursue career paths in the sport industry. I am confident that my support of the department’s Women in Sport Business initiative, and the professional development summit in particular, will help to meet these challenges.”
Barbour is among the most decorated women in the annals of intercollegiate athletics. In 2020, Barbour was among the honorees on Sports Illustrated’s "The Unrelenting" list of powerful, influential and outstanding women in sports. In 2022, she was named Sports Business Journal’s prestigious Athletic Director of the Year, the first woman in the history of the award to be so honored. In July 2021, she was appointed as the first woman to serve as Chair of the NCAA D1 Football Oversight Committee. (Coincidentally, her vice-chair was a fellow McCormack Sport Management alum, Patty Viverito.)
“I am so indebted to the experience I had as a master's student at UMass,” added Barbour. “The relationships I had with the faculty and my classmates, the education I gained, and the professional introduction that was provided for me by my time at UMass was key in setting me on my path in college administration, and I feel it’s important to provide the resources for the future generation of students pursuing their own paths in the sport industry. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to provide these resources in perpetuity so that UMass Sport Management can always be a leader in furthering the development of women in the sports industry.”