Rick Willis, an executive director of athletics and wellness and head football coach known for cultivating a successful Division III athletic department both on and off the field, will serve as Wartburg College’s first vice president for student recruitment.
Willis will begin his work on Aug. 1. He is replacing Edith Waldstein, who served as the college’s vice president for enrollment management since 2001. She is retiring Aug. 2.
As the vice president for student recruitment, Willis will oversee the Admissions and Financial Aid offices, the Athletic Department and the Wartburg-Waverly Sports & Wellness Center, a health and wellness facility serving the college and community.
“I am excited to embrace this important challenge, utilizing my previous leadership and recruiting experiences to help Wartburg continue to attract outstanding students. Our tremendous professional staff combined with all the distinguishing characteristics of this special place, will enable us to be successful in the intense competition for students,” Willis said.
Willis has served as the college’s executive director of athletics and wellness since January 2005, overseeing the management of 23 varsity sports, 35 full-time coaches, 25 part-time coaches and more than 600 student-athletes. His duties also included oversight of the Wartburg-Waverly Sports & Wellness Center. He also holds the college’s Lowell J. Walker Athletics Directorship Endowed Chair.
“Rick has been leading an Athletic Department that demonstrates thoroughgoing excellence. Not only has Wartburg won 127 conference championships in 17 different sports and 19 national championships in four different sports since 2005, but the college has increased its number of student-athletes by nearly 30 percent during that same time, and these student-athletes graduate at a high rate and often set the curve in their classes,” Wartburg President Darrel Colson said. “Rick is quick to say that the success in athletics is built upon a foundation of strong collaboration and trust. He has worked closely with Admissions and Financial Aid for many years, building that foundation while helping to shape the college’s overall recruiting strategies.”
Tara Winter, executive director of admissions, is excited for a smooth transition between Waldstein and Willis, both of whom she has worked closely with since 2005.
“I have admired Rick’s perspective on recruitment for many years. His experience working with prospective students and families and the challenges they face in the college search process will be extremely beneficial,” Winter said. “Rick believes in the importance of creating relationships with prospective students, which is the foundation of our recruitment process. I look forward to our continued work together as we strategize for the future.”
Willis also has served on institutional committees focused on retention, marketing and financial aid as well as serving on the Leadership Task Force for the Commission on Mission, which prepared the way for the college’s 2010-2020 strategic plan. He also served on the President’s Budget Advisory Council and a subcommittee of the college’s Higher Learning Commission Year-Four Assurance Argument.
During his time as athletic director, he also led or was involved with planning, design and fundraising for the wellness facility and renovation of the football stadium and track, baseball and softball fields and the soccer field as well as the newly completed Meyer Strength & Conditioning Annex. He also worked closely with the Department of Journalism & Communication to launch Knight Vision, the college’s live-streaming network, in 2013.
As a football coach, Willis has a career record of 185-46 with the 11th highest winning percentage in the nation among active Division III coaches. Ryan Callahan, Wartburg’s head athletic trainer, will serve as the interim athletic director beginning in August. Chris Winter, the assistant head football coach and defensive coordinator, has been promoted to head football coach. He has been with the Knights for 16 years, including six as the assistant head coach.