Dec. 30, 2014
WACO, Texas – Dr. Leah Holland Fiorentino has been named Executive Director of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, the organization announced Tuesday.
Fiorentino is the mother of former Gamecock swimmer Kendel Fiorentino, who was a four-year letterwinner at South Carolina from 2003-2007. She was captain of the 2006-2007 team.
Fiorentino will be responsible for organizing the Executive Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the NCEA, which provides opportunities in intercollegiate athletics participation for more than 800 female student-athletes at 22 participating institutions at both the NCAA Division I and Division II levels.
She is charged with creating and leading the NCEA Foundation Advisory Council, will steer the NCEA’s standing committees and will serve as a spokesperson for the NCEA. The NCEA Foundation Advisory Council, a newly approved structure comprised of expert stakeholders, will provide a crucial link to the equine industry and equestrian community leadership.
“Dr. Fiorentino brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our organization,” NCEA President Meghan Cunningham said. “I look forward to working with her to obtain NCEA’s goals, including our efforts to continue to increase sponsorship and growth within NCAA Equestrian. As the NCEA looks forward, hiring an executive director was a logical step in preparing for the future.”
Fiorentino, who has been involved in higher education for more than 25 years, is currently a tenured full professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke following a four-year term as the university’s Dean of the School of Education. Her recent work has been primarily in the area of kinesiology related to higher education leadership opportunities for women.
“I’ve had the good fortune to see the evolution of the NCEA format over the past 10 years and I am thrilled to be invited to support the work of the association during the transition of collegiate equestrian to NCAA championship status,” Fiorentino said. “For the past 10 years, I’ve watched with great interest as the national championships have evolved from an individual class format to the current team head-to-head bracketed tournament. This championship format mimics the work-off format seen in USEF junior and youth finals and extends through the international WEG competitions.
“I look forward to working with three critical groups over the next year: 1) the leadership of equestrian sport organizations to more fully connect with national efforts to promote equestrian activities at all levels; 2) the committed professionals at the institutions currently sponsoring collegiate equestrian teams and those interested in starting new programs – to ensure that high-quality participation opportunities exist for student-athletes; and 3) the strong coalition of stakeholders who have come forward to support the efforts to maintain collegiate equestrian programs across the country – an invaluable group of volunteers with critical expertise who will provide professional perspective and guidance as we move forward.”
Fiorentino, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Stony Brook University while competing at the Division I level on the men’s swim team, understands the importance of opportunities for women to compete at the highest level as a result of her collegiate competitive experiences prior to the full implementation of Title IX.
Fiorentino holds a master of arts degree in physical education from Adelphi University, a master of education in movement science and education from Columbia University and a doctor of education in movement science and education also from Columbia.
Among her professional service activities, Fiorentino has been elected to leadership positions in the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance as well as key committee appointments within the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
Fiorentino is the mother of two daughters who participated in Division I intercollegiate athletics. Logan was an equestrian student-athlete at the University of Georgia and is now the head hunt seat coach at Texas Christian University, and Kendel was a swimming student-athlete at the University of South Carolina.