On July 1, the EU Athletic Department announced the departure of Nate Stewart, who served as Athletic Director during the 2015-16 academic year. Stewart has accepted the position of Director of Athletics at Valley City State in North Dakota. During his five years at Eastern, he has also served as Head Men’s Basketball Coach and Assistant Director of Athletic Development.
“I’ve loved being at Eastern,” Stewart commented. “I will miss our athletes, the people I’ve worked with and the people I’ve met in my various roles here.”
While the Athletic Department searches for a new Athletic Director, Heidi Birtwistle is serving as the Interim Athletic Director. Birtwistle has been at Eastern for 25 years. During this time, she has served as Assistant Athletic Director and the Resident Director of Hainer Hall.
In regards to hiring the next Athletic Director, Birtwistle says the Athletic Department plans to “take their time and move slowly.” Birtwistle was approached and asked to assume the position of Interim Athletic Director in the meantime because of her experience as Associate Athletic Director, and because this is not the first time she has taken on this role; she has previously served as Interim Athletic Director during prior transition periods like this one.
Birtwistle explains that her primary reason for taking the position of Interim Athletic Director was simple: “Stability. Stability for the department.” Because fall preseason began on Aug. 17, there was no time to delay, and Birtwistle, along with the rest of the staff in the Athletic Department, began the work of the new semester.
“We have a great staff in this department,” Birtwistle comments. “They’ve been great. And I knew…that was going to make this work.”
Some of Birtwistle’s responsibilities as Interim Athletic Director include managing the team of people who make up the Athletic Department, including coaches and other staff members, as well as overseeing various projects, working with administration and dealing more closely with the finances and budget. Birtwistle was already doing many of these tasks as Assistant Athletic Director, except now, she explains, “The buck stops with me.”
For Birtwistle, in the Athletic Department, it all comes down to “strong competition, quality athletics and a great experience for our student athletes.”
“It’s a rewarding job when I see…our student athletes being successful,” Birtwistle says with a smile. Together, she and the rest of the Athletic Department are “working hard…to create a positive experience for our student athletes.”