Throughout her thirty-eight years in sports, Irma Garcia has been known and revered as a trailblazer in college athletics. Named the Director of Athletics for St. Francis College in 2007, Garcia became the first Latina to lead a NCAA Division I athletics’ department and is one of only a few women to head a Division I program. Garcia’s leadership, compassion and dedication to sports and St. Francis College have set the stage for her to oversee ten women’s teams and nine men’s teams as the college’s Athletic Director. Throughout her life as a collegiate student-athlete, coach and administrator, Garcia has touched and inspired many and dedicated much of her time to ensuring that young women have the resources and opportunities to blaze their own trails.
The Terriers have enjoyed a renaissance under Garcia over the past few years. She was a driving force in securing the men’s soccer program with a beautiful new home field at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which opened in 2013. The Terriers rode that momentum by earning automatic NCAA appearances in 2013, 2014, and 2016 after capturing three Northeast Conference Championships. The women’s basketball program turned in their best year ever by winning a program-high 19 games in 2013-2014, and in 2015, the squad captured the school’s first-ever NEC Championship in the sport after winning three road playoff games in March. In doing so, the team became the first women’s team in school history, in any sport, to participate in the NCAA Championships, and the Terriers enjoyed national exposure as they met eventual national champion UConn in their first-round game. The men’s basketball squad, who tied a program-high with 23 wins in 2014-2015, also made a post-season playoff appearance as the Terriers qualified for their first N.I.T. since 1963 after winning the NEC regular-season crown. Additionally, the men’s water polo team appeared in the NCAA Final Four in 2013 and have qualified for the event three different times during Garcia’s tenure.
Garcia’s student-athletes have also excelled in the classroom and in the community. The women’s basketball team won the 2015-2016 WBCA National Academic Championship with a 3.71 grade point average. The squad has been among the WBCA leaders for the past four years. Last year, five teams earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards for APR success. Overall, Terrier student-athletes currently maintain a 3.20 GPA.
Terrier student-athletes and staff continue to give back to the community. The department won the NEC Building Communities Award in 2015, an honor which recognizes the student-athlete population that has the highest percentage of participation in community services activities as well total hours donated. Garcia has also emphasized exemplary conduct by student-athletes, in keeping with the College’s Franciscan tradition, and as a result, several Terrier teams have been voted by their peers as winners of the Northeast Conference Sportsmanship Award.
A recipient of several awards and a member of the St. Francis College Athletic Hall of Fame, Garcia is involved in numerous national and local organizations, including the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA).