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Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto to retire from DePaul University


DePaul University Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto with 2019 Athletics graduates.
DePaul University Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto with 2019 Athletics graduates. (DePaul University Athletics photo)
CHICAGO — Following an illustrious 45-year career at DePaul University, Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto has notified university president A. Gabriel Esteban, Ph.D., and the DePaul board of trustees of her intention to retire in the coming months. Ponsetto has agreed to stay on in her role and assist the university with the leadership transition to a new athletic director. 

“Today is a bittersweet day for me and my husband, Joe. DePaul has been a part of our lives for the past 46 years. Our dearest and closest friends were teammates we began our student-athlete journeys with in 1974. It truly has been our privilege and the honor of a lifetime to serve DePaul as athletic director and to witness the unprecedented growth from that ‘little school under the el’ to its current world class university serving students from around the globe,” Ponsetto said.

DePaul University Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto
DePaul University Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto greets men’s basketball coach Dave Leitao and his family at a press conference in 2015. Today, June 5, Ponsetto has announced her retirement from the university. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the current and former Blue Demons that chose DePaul to be the lifelong home of their transformational intellectual, athletic, spiritual and professional growth years. I affirm my pride in the professional accomplishments and servant leadership of our Blue Demon letter winners — the world will be a better place for their innumerable and immeasurable contributions. As well, any and every success we’ve had during my tenure has been the result of the incredible leadership, mentorship and commitment of our coaches and my athletics colleagues that have walked every step of this journey with me. They, along with our past and present Blue Demons have been my everyday joy.

“I am also very grateful to the Vincentian fathers and brothers, faculty and staff with whom I’ve served over the past 40 years. Special thanks to Presidents Richardson, Minogue, Holtschneider and Esteban for their partnership and confidence, and support of my leadership. And to all the many benefactors who supported DePaul Athletics over these past 40 plus years, my sincere thanks and appreciation for your belief in the DePaul Athletics mission in transforming the lives of our student-athletes to become the socially responsible leaders of their generation. You are the wind beneath our wings!” she said.

“The changing times over these past few months has led me to this decision. Having successfully battled two breast cancer diagnoses and currently in treatment for a third, I thought it was time to step away from the long days, working every weekend and the 24/7 demands that being an athletic director requires,” said Ponsetto. “​I am incredibly grateful to the world-class medical team at Rush University Medical Center for their healing hands and hearts that have allowed me to continue my life’s work serving the DePaul community. Not unimportant in this decision for me was the opportunity to spend more time with our growing family and my 95-year-old dad who lives with Joe and I.” 

The university plans to conduct and complete a national search for a new athletic director over the summer. Ponsetto, who is also a former student and four-sport standout at DePaul, has served as athletic director for the past 18 years. Prior to that, she spent seven years as the senior associate director of athletics after serving 12 years as the associate director and two as an assistant director. 

“Jeanne is a Blue Demon through and through,” said Esteban. “Her contributions over the years have been significant and we wish her well in her retirement. Jeanne’s leadership has withstood the test of time and her career at DePaul has been filled with many accomplishments, which we plan to recognize in an appropriate way when we can.”

During Ponsetto’s tenure, 14 of the 15 Blue Demon programs have represented the school in NCAA championships — including 17 straight NCAA appearances by the women’s basketball program, two trips to the Women’s College World Series for the softball program, and trips to the NCAA Tournament by the women’s tennis, men’s and women’s soccer programs after winning Big East Conference regular season titles. 

She is responsible for overseeing the development of numerous athletic facilities projects for DePaul Athletics including Wintrust Arena, Sullivan Athletic Center, Wish Soccer Field, Cacciatore Softball Stadium, Cherry Family Indoor Track, the outdoor track at Lane Stadium and the short game facility at Ruffled Feathers Golf Club. In addition, DePaul Athletics has successfully fundraised to add 48 new scholarships for student-athletes under Ponsetto’s leadership.

Ponsetto has served the intercollegiate athletics community in a variety of leadership roles, including vice chair of the NCAA Council, chair of the NCAA Championships Cabinet, NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, NCAA Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and Collegiate Women’s Sports Award. She has served on numerous other NCAA committees and as an advisor to the NCAA president for the CBS and ESPN television negotiations. Ponsetto was a member of the original group of administrators who founded the NCAA Champs Life Skills Program in 1993, and she was a past president (2006) and board member of Women Leaders in College Sports. She currently serves on the NACDA board of directors and is president-elect (2021).

Ponsetto had an active role in helping organize the new Big East Conference, which debuted in July 2013. Under her leadership, DePaul has won multiple Big East Championships in women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s indoor and outdoor track, women’s tennis and softball. In 2016-17, the Blue Demons led the Big East with six team championships and eight academic awards. Academically, DePaul has led the Big East Conference for seven of the last eight years in academic awards.

Ponsetto has received several awards for her outstanding work at DePaul and for leadership serving the NCAA members and student-athletes. Ponsetto is a member of the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. She has been active throughout her career in community organizations in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and South Loop neighborhoods, and with several charitable organizations.


Media contact:
Greg Greenwell