The good news? Donald Brooks, who has served as Dartmouth’s assistant director of athletics for Peak Performance since 2011, has landed his dream job.
The bad news (for his students and colleagues in Hanover): The job—director of athletics—is at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., starting in May.
Donald Brooks, Dartmouth’s assistant director for athletics for Peak Performance, talks with student-athlete Matthew Shearin ’19. (Photo by Robert Gill)
“I’ve always wanted to be a director of athletics at a Division III school like Millsaps,” says Brooks, who was a starting offensive lineman for Springfield College (also Division III), where he graduated with a bachelor’s in business management and master’s in sports management.
His experience at a Division I school—Dartmouth—helped prepare him for his new leadership role.
“Coming here was what I needed to build my skills and take my leadership to another level,” he says. “I’ve learned a values-based approach to success and building teams. That’s what Dartmouth Peak Performance is all about, and that has taught me how to build a program. So I have a blueprint to take down to Jackson.”
Before Dartmouth, Brooks, originally from Houston, served in a variety of roles at Williams College, including assistant professor of physical education, assistant director of athletics, assistant football coach, and lacrosse coach. Brooks has also served as athletic director and assistant dean of students at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Mass., graduate assistant football coach at Springfield College, and scouting assistant and football operations intern with the Houston Texans. In 2014 he completed the NCAA’s Leadership Institute, a two-year professional development program for emerging administrators.
Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy worked closely with Brooks at Williams (where Sheehy served as athletic director before coming to Hanover) and recruited him to Dartmouth.
“I couldn’t be happier for Donnie,” says Sheehy. “Dartmouth will miss his leadership and community building skills, work ethic, integrity, and charisma. He will bring all these strengths to Millsaps, where we wish him continued success in the field.”
Brooks has played a key role in establishing Dartmouth Peak Performance, a program that integrates services to help student-athletes achieve their best academically, as athletes, and in their personal lives.
In a memo to Athletics and Recreation staff, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Peak Performance Drew Galbraith describes Brooks as “an incredible teammate,” noting Brooks’ role in shaping the Peak Performance program from its inception, “especially in the areas of career development, strength and conditioning, and integrative health.”
“His endless energy, positive attitude, and booming laugh will be missed,” Galbraith writes.
Part of Brooks’ legacy is a career-networking program he helped establish for student-athletes. “The Career Connections program was my baby,” he says, noting a recent trip with students to meet with alumni in Boston.
But perhaps his biggest impact has been as an adviser to students, particularly students of color, athletes and non-athletes alike.
“Students found their way to me for advice, and that has made me feel like part of the community,” says Brooks, who is African American. “Many students identify with me and my family. Affirming that they belong here at Dartmouth, helping them through tough experiences, and seeing them excel has been the most fulfilling part of the job.”
Donald Brooks, right, and student-athlete Matthew Shearin ’19 talk at Floren Varsity House, overlooking Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park. (Photo by Robert Gill)
He has also built collaborative relationships across campus, working with Residential Life, the Afro-American Society, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the dean of the College, and other groups.
“Harry said from the outset that he didn’t bring me to Dartmouth to sit in my office, and I haven’t,” he says. “I hope the cross-campus collaborations I was able to develop added value to the institution and benefited athletics.”
Recently, Brooks has been part of another important collaboration: serving on the staff working group for diversity, one of three linked groups of faculty, students, and staff that are currently pursuing the development of a plan for robust and sustained diversity and inclusion across the Dartmouth campus.
According to Ahmed Mohammed, director of talent acquisition, who chairs the staff group, “Donnie has not only brought a lot of wonderful ideas and strategies for attracting diverse candidates to the College, but also creative ways to keep them here.”
Brooks says his departure should be viewed as an indication of one of the College’s strengths—professional development.
“Dartmouth should understand its place as a career pipeline,” he says. “Dartmouth has a role in developing the next great leaders, and many of those should be people of color. If they leave to take an opportunity—great! In my case, Dartmouth did exactly what it’s supposed to do. It has allowed me to take a giant step forward.”
As he and his family look forward to their new adventure, Brooks plans to remain “an advocate and recruiter for Dartmouth. I will be telling other professionals that Dartmouth is a great place to be.”