Siena Heights University Athletic Director Fred Smith Announces Retirement; Sue Syljebeck Named Interim Athletic Director

Siena Heights University Athletic Director Fred Smith Announces Retirement; Sue Syljebeck Named Interim Athletic Director

ADRIAN, Mich. – After more than 42 years representing SHU Athletics as a coach and administrator – including the last 36 as athletic director – Fred Smith will retire on June 30, 2019.

Beginning July 1, current Associate Athletic Director and head women’s basketball coach Sue Syljebeck will become the interim athletic director. She will assume this new role through December 2019 while continuing as the head coach for women’s basketball. The University will then make a decision on the long-term future of the position. During this transition, Smith has agreed to serve as associate athletic director to assist her.

“It is time for me to step down and turn over the reins to Coach Sue Syljebeck,” Smith said. “I have not been able to give the energy the university deserves. Coach Syljebeck has been a great head basketball coach and will be a great athletic director at Siena. She is creative, a great communicator and a great leader. The Siena community, as well as the coaches, will benefit from her accepting this position.”

“I am honored to be taking over the athletic department with such rich tradition developed under the leadership of Fred Smith,” said Syljebeck, who has completed her 15th season as head women’s basketball coach. “My time under his guidance has been invaluable and he has prepared me to lead this department into the future. It’s an exciting time to be a Saint as we build on what we currently have. We will continue to support our student-athletes both in the classroom and on the playing fields. We will strive for both academic and athletic excellence while making a positive impact in our community.”

“Fred’s impact on Siena Heights and the community cannot be overstated,” said SHU President Sister Peg Albert, OP, Ph.D. “His contributions as a coach and administrator are without peer, and he has served as the ultimate ambassador for Siena Heights for so many years. On behalf of a grateful university, I thank Fred for his dedicated years of service to Siena Heights.”

The 65-year-old Smith has overseen unprecedented growth in the SHU athletic department. He also helped usher in a new era of cutting-edge sports to campus, including football, bowling, lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance, and most recently, eSports. Siena Heights currently has some of the finest athletic facilities for an institution its size in the Midwest region.

After being named athletic director in 1983, he was instrumental in the formation of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference – of which Siena Heights is a founding member. He was named the WHAC Athletic Director of the Year three times, including in 2018-19. In fact, the WHAC renamed its all-sports award the Fred Smith All-Sports Trophy for his contributions to the conference.

“In 2006, Fred Smith stepped off the courts of coaching Saints basketball and stepped up to the many Athletic Director demands he was simultaneously carrying out since 1983,” said SHU Dean for Students Michael Orlando. “Since 2006, Siena Heights has more than doubled our annual student-athlete population and added seven new athletic programs to our operations. He sees student-athletes as well-rounded students and has ensured our programs operate as such. Athletics has grown in complexity with issues like compliance regulations, shape with new programs like eSports and size with additions like football.

“Fred has always been up for the challenge and is a lifelong learner. His support is consistently consummate, present and intuitive. With all the accolades Fred has collected over these 43 years, he deserves countless more for developing the light in others. He truly makes our Saints shine. I am grateful to continue serving with him in his next chapter this fall as we collaborate on the successional leadership plan for Siena Heights Athletics.” 

His 21-year career as men’s basketball coach included 527 wins, the most in the institution’s history. During his tenure, Siena Heights was one of the winningest small-school programs in the country. The Saints recorded five 30-win seasons, 12 appearances in the NAIA National Tournament and eight WHAC titles. His 1996-97 squad finished as the NAIA Division II national runners-up, losing the title game to Bethel College 95-94.

After being named WHAC Coach of the Year four times, and the NAIA Regional Coach of the Year in 1989, Smith was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2006. He is the only Siena Heights coach or student-athlete to receive the honor.

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