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Dr. Ingrid Wicker McCree is no stranger to hard work and service. It is in his blood. So when she abruptly decided to pursue a career as a college administrator instead of pursuing a lucrative legal profession, no one blinked. He was doing it for the culture. McCree joined North Carolina Central University in 1998 and began a life of dedication to ensuring that this historic HBCU left a legacy of excellence and athletic achievement that would reign for generations to come.
NCCU became her home, literally and figuratively, because of the family values she felt on campus. It was on the Durham, North Carolina campus that she met her husband, Geno, and the two raised their three children in a life centered on college athletes. McCree can recall working day after day as the head coach of the women’s volleyball team, up to three weeks before her oldest daughter, Alexia, was born, and then taking just two weeks of maternity leave before returning to the office. He left Alexia’s playpen in the corner of his office.
“I’ve always been very open to taking her kids to work if necessary,” she says. “It is a great opportunity for children to grow up on a college campus. And in athletics, we are great advocates for our students. “
While Alexia graduated from NCCU, McCree’s son attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and his youngest daughter is engaged to Norfolk State and will play volleyball.
NCCU students have remained at the center of McCree’s phenomenal work for college. She comes from a family that has a work ethic steeped in serving others. His mother was a director of nursing. His father was a legislative aide to several congressmen and dedicated part of his career as a social worker. She says it was inevitable that she too would end up in a service position.
McCree says her change from attorney to coach and later college administration was an easy transition. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from George Washington University and planned to become a lawyer before changing courses. “I was actually working in a pretrial services jail at the time during graduate school,” McCree says. But then fate intervened. She was invited to North Carolina State University to become an assistant coach. While there, he earned a master’s degree in recreational resource management and completed his doctoral studies in higher education management. Still, she had no aspirations to pursue a coaching career until she encountered Dr. LeRoy T. Walker, the first black president of the United States Olympic Committee, the first black coach of a United States Olympic team, and former Chancellor of the NCCU.
“He told me, ‘Ingrid, there aren’t enough black women training.’ And I thought, well, who am I to disagree with a legend like him? I changed my major to recreational management. “She says talking to him changed her mind and started her on a new journey in athletics.” I’m so thankful that he shared those words with me, “she says.” He really was a pivot. in my career”.
An integral part of McCree’s prosperity in her role was due in part to what she views as the “change from manager to leader.” Dr. Debra Saunders-White, the first female Chancellor to hold the position permanently at NCCU, recognized the value McCree added to the university and encouraged her to consider a leadership position. Saunders-White knew that her experience and passion would be an asset. She told McCree, “You should be here.”
“That really transformed and transitioned me,” says McCree. She credits Saunders-White with teaching her to want more and inspiring her to jump outside of her comfort zone. “She paid me to go to the creative leadership center, which changed my life,” says McCree. “Before, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be in this seat as a woman and especially in a black college.”
When Saunders-White passed away from cancer in 2016, McCree vowed to continue his legacy of building a great university for community and culture. “She gave me a chance,” says McCree. “She understood that I am here for these student-athletes and this university. That’s where my loyalty is. “
Looking back at her 28-plus years with NCCU, McCree says she feels great gratitude. She began her HBCU career as the head coach of women’s volleyball and softball and then became the first coach in NCCU history to win conference championships in multiple sports, capturing the first CIAA school titles in softball (1998 ) and volleyball (’99, 2004, 2005). She was inducted into the NCCU Athletic Hall of Fame in ’04 as the head coach of the ’98 softball team and was later selected to be inducted into the CIAA’s John B. McLendon Hall of Fame in February ’98. 16.
As director of athletics for the NCCU, McCree was one of the driving forces behind the college’s reclassification to NCAA Division I. From 1998 until her appointment as athletic director in 2008, she oversaw the internal operations of the athletic department, including all compliance and eligibility programs.
The HBCU had to meet dozens of conference and NCAA requirements to move from its Division II status, including increasing its full-time staff from 25 to around 75 in less than four years. McCree says it was a huge transformation for the department, the university and for her, because the work did not focus on athletics. It was all driven by business. To make the NCCU more competitive, he helped court new donors to accumulate scholarships and spent many hours helping recruit staff and trainers. Improvements such as adding grass, new stadium seating and video scoreboards on the soccer field, locker room renovations, and a new arena floor put NCCU on the same footing as its peers.
“I won’t be here, but [it makes me happy] just knowing that I served as part of that future, for our student-athletes, ”says McCree, who announced that he will step down at the end of the spring semester of 2022.“ We are now part of the university’s master plan for updating all sports facilities to the tune of about $ 90 million. “
McCree says he looks forward to the next phase of his life after retirement. “I have been so blessed. It’s been a total of 31 years in athletics, but this is my 28th year here in North Carolina Central. I will retire with my 30 years of service in the state system ”.
Bryna Jean-Marie is a contributor to Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform that celebrates the stories and transformative power of sports for black women and girls.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.