Photo: NCCU

Etienne Thomas, director of athletics at Kentucky State University, has been named the next director of athletics at Winston-Salem State. Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson made the announcement in an email to faculty, staff and students on Wednesday.

Thomas comes to the university with nearly two decades’ experience as an athletics administrator. A seasoned leader, she has worked at Division I and Division II institutions, among them North Carolina Central University (NCCU), San Jose State University, Howard University, Saint Paul’s College, and the University of Iowa – a Power 5 conference school.


Thomas’s long list of career highlights includes serving as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference representative on the NCAA Division I Council, as a member of the NCAA Governance Student-Athlete Experience Committee and as a council liaison to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Included among her many accomplishments is assisting NCCU with its transition from a Division II independent program to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and its transition to Learfield/LRG licensing.

“In Etienne, we have found a trailblazer who possesses the critical leadership skills and executive presence needed to meet the university’s strategic goals related to athletics,” Chancellor Robinson said. “She understands the importance of not only winning on the field but also succeeding in the classroom and raising funds for to support our student-athletes. Having worked at a sister UNC System institution, Etienne is very familiar with WSSU, our programs, our alumni, and the challenges and opportunities of Division II athletics. I could not be more excited about the future of our athletics program.”

A 1996 graduate of NCCU, Thomas has also completed coursework for a J.D. degree from The University of Iowa College of Law. In 2006, she completed the 18-month NCAA Fellows Program. She is a lifetime member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is a member of Minority Opportunities Athletics Association, Women Leaders in College Sports, National Association of Collegiate Directors of America and the National Association of Athletics Compliance. Thomas will be WSSU’s third female athletic director and is among only 23 female African-American athletic directors in the NCAA.

“This is my dream job,” Thomas said. “Returning home to North Carolina and the CIAA is a full circle moment. I am thankful for the opportunity and the trust that the Board and Chancellor Robinson have placed in me as the next servant leader for Rams Athletics. The coaches, staff and I will ensure our student-athletes have a first-class experience at WSSU. This begins with academic success and graduation; winning championships; alumni and community engagement; mental health and wellness; and retention.”

At WSSU, Thomas will lead a program that includes 10 teams, approximately 275 student-athletes, and 33 athletics staff. She will fill the role previously held by Tonia Walker, who resigned in May 2018. George Knox, associate athletic director for compliance, has served as the interim athletic director and will return to his role when Thomas officially begins her duties on January 1, 2020.

Courtesy: WSSU Athletics

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