Keith Beckett, who has served as The College of Wooster's director of physical education, athletics, and recreation for 16 years, and as the Fighting Scots' head swimming and diving coach for 19 years prior, has announced he'll retire at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Prior to his retirement, Beckett will take a sabbatical during the 2019-20 academic year, will step down as athletic director on August 1, 2019, and will assume the title of director of athletics emeritus at that time.
"I have been privileged to have countless outstanding mentors during my time at The College of Wooster," said Beckett. "I would be remiss however, if I didn't specifically mention past president Stan Hales, legendary athletic director Al Van Wie, longtime coach and athletic director Nan Nichols, coach and professor Hayden Schilling, past president Grant Cornwell, North Coast Athletic Conference executive director Keri Alexander Luchowski, and provost Carolyn Newton. Each of these individuals, and many others not mentioned, were a positive impact on my professional growth and development."
Wooster's 23 varsity teams won 35 NCAC championships since Beckett assumed the athletic director duties on August 1, 2003, and this past year, the Scots placed second in the NCAC's all-sports standings, in what marked the College's highest finish since 1997-98. Among the many accomplishments were the Scots' nationally-prominent baseball and men's basketball teams competing at the highest level in their respective NCAA Div. III Championships, as baseball finished as the national runner-up in 2009 as well as third overall in 2005, and basketball advanced to the 2011 national championship game and reached the "Final Four" in 2007.
Additionally, the women's swimming team placed seventh nationally in 2004 and women's track and field tied for 23rd in 2007; women's lacrosse hosted an NCAA tourney game for the first time in program history in 2004 and men's lacrosse reached their first NCAA Tournament that same year; and the football team made the NCAA field in 2004.
Several facility additions and renovations took place under Beckett's watch, most notably the $30 million Scot Center, which opened in January 2012. Recently, the Armington Physical Education Center, which houses Timken Gymnasium and Timken Natatorium, underwent a $5 million renovation last summer, while a $1.6 million project to renovate and expand locker room facilities (women's locker rooms and all-gender locker room) is currently underway. Additionally, an artificial surface was added to the infield at Art Murray Field and John P. Papp Stadium, while lights were added to the latter in 2009, Swigart Strength Center was renovated in 2012, and a new press box and scoreboard were added recently at softball.
Under Beckett's leadership, Wooster became one of the first Div. III institutions to establish an administrative position committed to diversity and inclusion, a departmental diversity and inclusion committee was formed, the College's varsity sport offerings grew to 23 with the addition of women's golf in 2010, all of Wooster's head coaches were advanced to full-time status, coaching and recruiting support for women's varsity sports increased through the addition of several full-time assistants, and facility scheduling and purchasing protocols were developed, enhancing equity. In 2016, Beckett led the effort to establish the department as a leader in the "It's On Us" movement aimed to take a stand against sexual violence and be part of prevention and response.
Other significant departmental achievements under Beckett's watch include authoring of the NCAA Ethnic Minorities and Women's Internship Grant as well as the NCAA Strategic Alliance Matching Grant, collaborating with the development office and W Association leadership to establish the Fighting Scots Fund and ensure equitable support for all student-athletes and varsity programs, revitalizing the student-athlete advisory committee, and the establishment of the "Scotties".
On an individual level, 10 student-athletes earned NCAA postgraduate scholarships, including three during the 2017-18 academic year when Wooster finished fifth nationally in total recipients, and the Scots have received 32 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America® certificates.
From 1984-03, Beckett developed the Scots' swimming program into one of the best in Div. III. During his 19-year run as coach, the women's team turned in a remarkable 142-22-1 record in dual meets, and he guided it to 15 top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships, highlighted by school-best fifth-place showings in 1986, 1987, and 2003. Beckett's men's teams were nearly as successful, going 111-51 in dual- and tri-meets and scoring at seven national meets.
Beckett's swimmers and divers earned 182 All-American certificates during his tenure, while Brooke Henderson won the national championship in the 50 freestyle in 1989, and the Scots logged 12 runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships.
Beckett has been the meet director for 10 NCAA Championships and served as meet coordinator for several other championships. He was a member of the NCAA Rules and Championship Committee, including the chair in 2001-02.
As athletic director, Beckett served as a member of the NCAA Div. III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, presented on numerous topics at industry conventions, and in 2007, traveled to Cairo, Egypt, as a consultant for the American University in Cairo, advising officials from the university on physical education, athletic programming, and facility operations.
Within the NCAC, Beckett served as chair of the conference's athletic directors, served as a NCAC sport liaison, was part of the committee on sportsmanship and positive fan behavior, the conference marketing and branding review committee, was a mentor in the Branch Rickey program, and a leader in the promotion, development, and application of statements and initiatives for enhanced inclusivity.
"The College of Wooster is a very special place," summed up Beckett. "It has been a singular honor to serve the College and to be connected with countless achievements and advancements obtained by Wooster's coaching staff, student-athletes, as well as many members of our campus community. Each has been an example of true Fighting Scot spirit and excellence."