Aaron Leetch is stepping down as athletic director at Whitworth, according to a release from the university.
Longtime staff and faculty member Melinda Larson has been named interim Director of Athletics by Whitworth president Beck Taylor.
Leetch will return to Illinois State University, where he served as associate athletic director for external affairs for five years before taking over at Whitworth in June of 2011.
Here's Whitworth's official release:
Aaron Leetch has announced that he is stepping down as Director of Athletics at Whitworth University to return to Illinois State University and President Beck Taylor has named longtime staff and faculty member Melinda Larson as the Pirates' interim Director of Athletics.
Leetch served Whitworth as the Director of Athletics for two years and he made a significant impact in a relatively short period of time. He oversaw the completion of three key facility upgrades: the renovated baseball facility – including the addition of a FieldTurf infield, the Aquatic Center locker rooms and the resurfacing of Boppell Track. He has reshaped the future of the athletic department staff with the addition of an Assistant AD for Development and Sales and he oversaw the hiring of new head coaches for volleyball and men's soccer.
Finally, Leetch continued a standard of success established by his direct predecessors – Scott McQuilkin and Warren Friedrichs. Over the course of the last two academic years Pirate teams have won 12 Northwest Conference titles and extended the school's streak of NWC McIlroy-Lewis All-Sports trophies to six in a row.
"Whitworth is without question one of the top NCAA Division III programs in the country and I am thankful to President Taylor for his confidence in my ability to lead such a successful program," Leetch said. "President Taylor is a courageous, visionary leader and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from him."
"Aaron has served the Whitworth athletics program extremely well for the past two years and he instituted many improvements to the department that will serve us going forward," said Taylor.
Leetch came to Whitworth from Illinois State and he returns to the Redbirds as the Deputy Director of Athletics, responsible for all external units within the department. Leetch arrived at Whitworth after serving in the ISU athletics department since 2005, the final three years as Associate AD for External Affairs.
"The student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and staff are responsible for the consistent level of success at Whitworth and deserve all the credit," Leetch said. "Though my time at Whitworth has been brief, I will always cherish the relationships I have made and hope that I have been able to add value to the program."
"Whitworth's loss is Illinois State's gain, and I know Aaron will help to steward ISU's athletics program to success," Taylor concluded.
Larson has served Whitworth for 18 years and leads the Pirates' award-winning sports medicine department as Head Athletic Trainer and Associate Professor. She was awarded the NATA's Outstanding Service Award in 2010. Larson is a Whitworth graduate and played varsity basketball for the Pirates.
"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Whitworth in this role and I'm excited to work for such a supportive president as Beck Taylor," Larson said. "I am looking forward to continuing to work with student-athletes and supporting our teams as they pursue athletic and academic excellence."
"Melinda has consistently contributed to the quality of the athletics program during her 18 years of service as a Pirate," Taylor said. "As head athletic trainer, Melinda is naturally inclined to place our student-athletes' welfare front and center. Her rapport with students, coaches and trainers is excellent, and I am confident that she will do a great job in this new role."
Larson will begin her duties immediately and the process and timeline for selecting Leetch's ongoing replacement is still to be determined.