Photo by Richard Howard
If you want to know what Bridget Belgiovine has been doing the last 13 years, look around. Start in the fieldhouse. Or better yet, the fitness center, which didn’t exist when she started as the director of athletics and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Athletics. Wander down to the newly renovated Butler Boathouse. Or just take a peek in her office.
There she has accumulated mementos that reflect accomplishments both personal and professional: NCAA trophies. Photos of travel. Gifts from students, families, and colleagues, including a quilt on the wall stitched with the words “Honor. Invest. Win.” (a gift from a former mentee who went on to become an athletic director). A painting by an alumna. A photo of an early Float Night, a tradition she helped revive. It would be easy to keep going, but difficult to actually list all that has changed and grown under her leadership. When she retires at the end of the academic year, there will be no doubt about the legacy she leaves behind.
It’s not just physical changes and new facilities that are part of her legacy. “The recreation program has grown exponentially,” Belgiovine says. It now has year-round programming, its own director, and encompasses eight club sports as well as student-led classes (as many as 20 per week). Friends of Wellesley College Athletics has also grown significantly, both in terms of donors and events. “I can remember my very first Homecoming,” Belgiovine says. “I think we maybe had six alumnae show up that day.” This past Homecoming, the field house was packed with more than 500 students, alumnae, and family members. “That’s the result of years of partnering and continuing to think about how we can engage and encourage and bring more people,” she says.
She’s also proud of the recently launched LeadBLUE athletic leadership program, which provides four years of training for student-athletes in mental-health skills, team collaboration, and leadership. “We are about providing student-athletes with the opportunity to not just pursue their passions, but to become leaders who will make a difference wherever they go,” Belgiovine says. “I ultimately want them to think of their athletic experience as being a large part of what they learned and gained from their Wellesley experience.”
But for every accomplishment she points out with pride, Belgiovine is quick to give credit to the team of people working to make it happen. “When you think about the evolution of the department, the growth of the department, it is really a collective team,” she says. “With alums, with coaches, with student-athletes, with parents, our faculty and staff—all the different people that come together on a regular basis to ensure that the experiences for students are the best they can be.”
Even with all these accomplishments (and more), it comes back to the students for Belgiovine. “I will miss the students the most,” she says. “They have four short years here. We owe them our best. We owe them our best effort to give them places to grow and learn.” There can be no doubt that Belgiovine has given her best for the past 13 years. “It’s pretty much a seven-days-a-week enterprise,” Belgiovine says. “Lots of nights, I’ve gone home mentally exhausted. But then I go to a game.” She laughs. “[That] is what it’s about.”
After Wellesley, Belgiovine plans to travel internationally, spend time with family, and then figure out what’s next. But until then, she’s still working. “We are caretakers in a moment in time at this institution. I have been fortunate to be the caretaker at a place like Wellesley and to be able to add new programs that you hope will last,” Belgiovine says. “But you guarantee that they last by creating a legacy to support them.” And what a legacy it is.