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After 21 Productive Years, Johns Hopkins' Tom Calder Changing Roles

July 15, 2016
During the 2015-16 academic year, Tom Calder made a career-changing decision. After 21 impactful years as the athletic director at Johns Hopkins University, Calder decided to accept a position as the school's director of alumni programs. 

The move, which became official July 1, meant Calder would no longer be guiding the athletic department. But Calder will still be steps away from a department he helped to grow and prosper during the past two decades. 

"For the first time, I'm getting out of athletics," Calder said. "But it's a good feeling, because it's perfect to still be working at Johns Hopkins. The good thing is that, in my new position, I can continue to help take care of athletics. But there are also a lot of other things across campus that I'll be working on." 

Calder has been at Johns Hopkins since 1988, when he was hired as the associate athletic director by then-athletic director Bob Scott. Originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, he spent much of his youth in the New York City suburb of Baldwin. Calder, who played football and lacrosse at Hofstra University, began a lifelong career in intercollegiate athletics after his 1975 graduation. 

Calder's first professional stop was in Salem, Va., where he served as an assistant men's lacrosse coach at Roanoke College. He went back to school, earning a master's degree in sports administration from Ohio University. After interning in the University of Virginia's athletic department, Calder worked in athletic administration and served as an assistant lacrosse coach at the University of North Carolina. After four years at UNC, Calder accepted a position as a legislative assistant at the NCAA's headquarters. From 1986-88, he was the assistant director of development for the Bloomsburg (Pa.) University athletic department.

"When I was in Chapel Hill, I lived with [former Johns Hopkins and UMBC men's lacrosse coach] Don Zimmerman for about two years," Calder said. "When Lee Horowitz retired as the assistant athletic director at Hopkins, Zim asked if I would be interested. I came up and interviewed, and I got the job." 

During Calder's 21 years of leadership, the Johns Hopkins' athletic program has earned substantial national recognition and even scored national titles. The school won five NCAA championships, including Division I men's lacrosse titles in 2005 and 2007 and consecutive Division III women's cross country crowns from 2012-14. During the 2015-16 academic year, eight men's teams and seven women's programs reached the NCAA tournament. 

Johns Hopkins has placed in the top 40 of the Learfield Directors' Cup standings, which measures a school's overall athletic success, for 20 consecutive years. The Blue Jays have been in the top 12 during each of the last six years. Following a second-place finish during the 2014-15 campaign, Johns Hopkins was No. 12 in the final 2015-16 rankings. 

While the program was achieving athletic success, Blue Jay student-athletes were also performing at an exceptionally high level in the classroom. During the last 21 years, a total of 112 Johns Hopkins student-athletes earned Academic All-America honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America. 

"Our coaches understand that, because of the academic pressures here, you have to allow your players to deal with academics the way they need to," said Calder, who was one of four Division III recipients of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics' Athletic Director of the Year award in June 2014. "They also teach the athletes how to budget their time." 

While Calder always kept the well-being of Blue Jay student-athletes in mind, he also made sure to develop close relationships with his coaches. During an era in which coaches frequently come and go, Calder has presided over a staff that is known for its stability. 

"Tom was instrumental in the growth of our women's programs," said Nancy Funk, who is entering her 31st season as Johns Hopkins' head women's basketball coach. "He always showed genuine interest in what I was working on with the team. He gave us the autonomy to run our own programs, which was very empowering. His presence and voice of support sent a message to the student-athletes that their program really mattered."

Calder, who lives with his wife Sue and twin children James and Alexandra, both recent college graduates, in Timonium, Md., also understood that coaches needed to have a life away from Johns Hopkins.

"Tom cared about my family commitments and finding that work-life balance," Funk said. "He always gave support when needed, which allowed me to reach my potential as a head coach." 

There were also major facility upgrades during Calder's tenure. The O'Connor Recreation Center, which opened in 2002 and provides physical activity opportunities for all students, was the first structure built on Calder's watch. Johns Hopkins partnered with nearby Loyola University to build a track-and-field facility on the grounds of Baltimore's former Eastern High School. The Wall-O'Mahoney Student-Athlete Lounge and the Cordish Lacrosse Center opened in 2012. Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium, which was completed in 2014, houses the Blue Jay baseball program. Hopkins' new on-campus, lighted tennis facility opened in 2015. In addition, a permanent North Pavilion and state-of-the-art video board were added to Homewood Field.

The next major project is the renovation of Goldfarb Gymnasium. New scoreboards have been installed, and the interior will be completely re-done. 

"Over 1,100 people a day come into the Rec Center," Calder said. "Next to the library, it's the most used building on the campus. We worked for years on the baseball stadium. Bill Stromberg, who not only played football here but was also a great shortstop, funded most of the cost."

The crowning achievement was the planning and construction of the Cordish Lacrosse Center.

"We're not like most of the teams that we play," Calder said. "We needed a lacrosse-only facility, and Mr. Dave Cordish was kind enough to donate most of the money for that building. To my knowledge, it's the first lacrosse-only building in the country." 

After 21 years of a demanding Johns Hopkins athletic schedule, Calder said he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife. While he will still be within close proximity of the Johns Hopkins' athletic department he helped build, not seeing him on a daily basis will be a tough adjustment for the colleagues who have worked with him for so many years.  

"His impact on the university will still be felt in his new position," Funk said. "But we're all going to miss him, personally and professionally, because he's been such a good friend to all of us. We always felt that Tom was the glue that kept our department together." 

Issue 223: July 2016