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After High-Flying Career, Skinner Retiring as AD

With Athletic Program’s D-I Transition Complete, Dana Skinner Passes Baton to Peter Casey

Dana Skinner speaks to a crowd at the Tsongas Center Photo by Bob Ellis
During his tenure as director of athletics, Dana Skinner helped lead the university's Division I transition and also grew the campus recreation program.

By University Relations Staff

Dana Skinner is stepping down at the top of his game.

After more than three decades of leadership and service at UMass Lowell, including the last 23 years as director of intercollegiate athletics, Skinner is retiring in September.

Skinner led the university’s successful transition to NCAA Division I competition, a comprehensive five-year process that was formally completed last summer. The River Hawks’ rise to the top rung of college sports, along with the development of campus athletic facilities and advancement in community engagement, have gone hand-in-hand with the university’s remarkable growth as a public research institution.

“Dana has made a profound and lasting impact not only on the River Hawks athletic program, but on the university as a whole,” says Chancellor Jacquie Moloney. “UMass Lowell is extremely fortunate to have had someone with Dana’s vision, commitment and competitiveness at the helm of our athletic department, and as a member of our senior leadership team, during such a transformative era. We are thankful for all that he has accomplished.”

Skinner will be replaced by Peter Casey, who has served as deputy director of athletics since 2013. A 1993 graduate of Bowdoin College, Casey has worked in college and professional athletics for the past 25 years. 

Dana Skinner speaks to the crowd at a United in Blue event Photo by Bob Ellis
Dana Skinner, who joined the university in 1987, addresses the crowd during a 'United in Blue' event.

Skinner’s 31-year tenure at the university began in 1987, when he was hired as the athletic department’s coordinator of marketing and promotions/event management. He became assistant athletic director in 1989 and associate athletic director in 1993 before being appointed director of athletics in 1995.

“To this university and the people here, I owe everything,” Skinner says. “UMass Lowell gave me the opportunity to have meaning and purpose in my work, and not everyone gets to do that. I have had the pleasure of working alongside so many great people across the Lowell campus and the UMass system to ensure the integrity of the athletic program, while at the same time establishing a foundation for our student-athletes to enjoy success in academics, athletics and as caring citizens.”

Skinner has overseen the transformation of the university’s athletic facilities. During his tenure, UML has invested nearly $80 million in construction and renovation projects across campus, including the Tsongas Center, LeLacheur Park, the Costello Athletic Center, the Campus Recreation Center, the Cushing Field Complex, the softball complex and the Bellegarde Boathouse. He also helped develop the Campus Recreation Program to what it is today, providing intramural, club sport and fitness opportunities to all students. 

When it comes to the River Hawks who train and compete in those facilities, Skinner always kept a focus on both sides of the “student-athlete” hyphen. Since joining the Div. I America East Conference in 2013, UML student-athletes have achieved a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher every semester. In 2017, the River Hawks’ cumulative 3.20 GPA was the third highest in the nine-school conference. And this spring, a record 10 UML student-athletes earned the America East Presidential Scholar-Athlete Award, which recognizes graduating seniors who compiled a cumulative career GPA of 3.75 or higher. The River Hawks had the second-most honorees in the conference.

Dana Skinner speaks during Division I announcement Photo by Bob Ellis
Dana Skinner talks about the River Hawks' move to the America East Conference during a ceremony in 2013.

A firm believer that sports can be used to promote positive social change, Skinner also took pride in the River Hawks’ community engagement efforts with the Special Olympics, the National Youth Sports Program, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Team Impact.

Ultimately, of course, athletic directors are measured by the success of their teams, and Skinner excelled in that arena as well. The UML hockey team earned a trip to the 2013 Frozen Four and has qualified for the NCAA tournament six times during his tenure as AD. The River Hawks have also won the Hockey East tournament title three times in the past six years.

This year, in its first as an “active” Div. I member, UML finished fourth in the America East Commissioner’s Cup standings, which ranks the overall success of varsity teams. The River Hawks have already won America East titles in men’s cross-country and indoor track, while the men’s soccer team won the regular-season crown in 2016. During 12 seasons as a member of the Div. II Northeast-10 Conference, 55 River Hawk teams captured conference championships, 102 teams earned NCAA tournament berths and the field hockey team won national titles in 2005 and 2010.

Gary Gardner, who was hired by Skinner to coach the men’s and women’s track and field and cross-country teams in 2002, says he couldn’t have asked for a better mentor over the past 16 years.

“Dana’s support for all River Hawk athletics is unmatched in the NCAA,” Gardner says. “He truly cares about each staff member personally and as a professional.” 

Dana Skinner walks down hallway lined with hockey history Photo by Tory Wesnofske
Dana Skinner walks past a display of UML hockey history last fall at the Tsongas Center.

A native of Danvers, Skinner was a Div. II All-American basketball player for Merrimack College, where he graduated in 1978. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the third round (50th overall) of the NBA draft and played briefly for the Maine Lumberjacks of the Continental Basketball Association. He later became head coach of the New England Gulls of the Women’s Professional Basketball Association and earned a master’s degree in sports administration from St. Thomas University in Miami.

Skinner was named the Div. II NACDA Northeast Athletic Director of the Year in 2003 and was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

His successor, Casey, earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Bowdoin, where he was a four-year starter and captain of the football team. He received a master’s of physical education in athletic administration from Springfield College in 1996.

“I have been privileged and honored to work with Dana, and I cannot imagine a better role model or mentor,” Casey says. “The athletic department and the university as a whole are benefactors of Dana’s leadership, selflessness and integrity. I look forward to continuing the legacy that Dana has launched and pursuing the vision he has worked toward so diligently.”

Casey served as vice president of the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League before joining UMass Lowell in 2002 as assistant athletic director for external affairs. Two years later, he was elevated to associate athletic director.

In 2007, Casey was hired as director of football operations at Rutgers University. A year later, he became director of athletics and wellness for the Nashua, N.H., school district. He then rejoined UMass Lowell in 2009 as director of athletic business enterprises.