New Wilmington, PA – Shortly after the Spring 2021 semester ended, former longtime director of athletics, Jim Dafler, announced his retirement, allowing Westminster College to spend the summer searching for someone to fill in the shoes come the start of the new school year. Titan Football alumni Jason Lener, class of ‘93, “felt blessed” to come back home to the campus where he led the Titans to a 38-9 record, along with qualifying for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II Tournament all four years, including a pair of runner-up finishes.
“When you work in athletics, you always have an affinity to work for your alma mater one day. Here there have only been five other athletic directors that have come before me, so there are not really a lot of opportunities. So, when Coach Dafler announced his retirement, it certainly caught my attention and I started talking to folks that I had played for here and known here. Part of the intrigue was moving back home for us. My wife and I are both from here; I grew up in Hermitage, she is from Pittsburgh. So, to be able to come to your alma mater and try and provide men and women with an experience that you have had as a student athlete here was something that was hard to pass up” said Lener on his return to Westminster.
Westminster has been fortunate to have such great leadership in the athletic department’s history, with all five previous directors being some of the biggest names in Westminster College history: Jim Dafler, Joe Fusco, Buzz Ridl, Harold Burry, and Grover Washabaugh.
“It's interesting to have your name mentioned among them, but I've done nothing towards being talked about like they are—I'm just starting this journey. When you think about Coach Dafler and Coach Fusco, who I played for, then Harold Burry and Buzz Ridl, who are two of the all-time great Titan Coaches and directors of athletics, it is humbling to think there has been five athletic directors and fifteen presidents over that time frame, and there is a history when you are an athletic director here that you are there for a long time and commit to the institution. It is very humbling for me to be a part of that discussion,” said Lener on following in the footsteps of the previous athletic directors. “You just hope that one day you can leave the legacy that they [previous athletic directors] have and I'm certainly starting that journey right now. There has been a lot of history and tradition that has come before me.”
Coming into this academic year, there is a lot to be excited about; the football team defending their first PAC title, the Titan Volleyball team going for a three-peat, and another year on the new athletic fields.
“I think coming off the spring that we had when everything was kind of crazy with COVID-19 and you played all 22 sports at one time. To win six championships and have four runners-up is really impressive. You know it's a really wonderful time to be here,” said Lener. “We are coming off a highly successful year last year. When you look at the facilities we have here, they are second to none. To look at our lobby and the Hall of Fame and the Huey Heritage Center, you do not find those things on a lot of campuses. It is an exciting time to be here, and the future is really bright. If we can continue to build off the success, we had in the spring then I think we could have a really good year this year”.
Prior to returning to Westminster Lener has an impressive resume working in athletics. Lener served as Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Illinois, Deputy Athletic Director/CFO at Miami University, and Assistant Athletic Director/CFO at the University of Pittsburgh.