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American University chooses William 'Billy' Walker as its athletic director

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy

Air Force deputy athletic director brings a diverse resume

He was raised in a town named Hartland, wrestled at the Air Force Academy, commanded 82 helicopter rescue missions and guided the 89th Airlift Wing Operations Group at Andrews Air Force Base, which is responsible for the safe transport of Washington's most important dignitaries.

If anyone is perfect for a job at American University, it's William "Billy" Walker.

Walker was introduced by AU president Neil Kerwin as the new athletic director Thursday at Bender Arena. He replaces Keith Gill, who was hired as AD at Richmond in November.

Walker, who comes on board in April, has served in a variety of roles in teaching, the military and athletic administration. His most recent position was as Air Force's deputy athletic director. The common thread in his appointments is leadership.

"That, as an officer, is what you do from day one," Walker said. "You take good things you learn from everybody throughout your career."

Walker takes over a department that oversees 250 athletes competing in 16 varsity sports. In a time of tumult in college athletics, Walker said he was drawn by the stability of AU and the Patriot League.

"Conference turmoil is probably the biggest issue in intercollegiate athletics right now," Walker said. "But I think the Patriot League has positioned itself very strongly. It has tremendous leadership. It's carved out that niche with a lot of like-minded institutions that have shared values. And the addition of Loyola and Boston University [next fall] will strengthen it as well."

American alum Ron Vogel was part of the search committee that identified Walker. He said the school was looking for an administrator to continue the strong work done by Gill in his five years.

"I think staying the course as Keith presented, maintaining the right proportion of academics and athletics is important," Vogel said. "But also achieving championships because I think that brings people to the university."

Walker, a Wisconsin native and a 1983 graduate of the Air Force Academy, has nearly 3,000 hours of helicopter flight time. He returned to Colorado Springs in 1991 to teach physical education, serve as an assistant wrestling coach and run the Fitness Testing and Evaluation Division. Within two years, Walker had received the academy's highest instructional award and was selected to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate degree.

After school at Northern Arizona and another stint commanding helicopter units, Walker returned to the Air Force Academy in 2001 and got involved in athletic administration. As he climbed the ladder in the department, he chaired the NCAA Division I wrestling committee, served on the men's ice hockey committee, guided the formation of the Western Lacrosse Conference and presided over the merger of two lacrosse leagues.

According to Kerwin, it was Walker's broad range of responsibilities that set him apart. He used to transport Washington's shakers and movers. Now Walker is one of them.

"We have a person of great achievement, integrity, a great breadth of interests and experience," Kerwin said. "And above all, a person deeply committed to the development of our students as whole people, preparing themselves for a lifetime of accomplishment and leadership."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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