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Director of athletic championships scores one of Stanford's top staff awards

L.A. Cicero Jenny Claypool

Amy J. Blue award recipient Jenny Claypool, director of athletic championships in Intercollegiate Services.

BY CASEY LINDBERG

Having just earned a master's degree in sports management from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst—and with joblessness just days away—Jenny Claypool walked up to the Stanford box office to buy a ticket for the first home game of the football season. In the ticket window was a help-wanted sign, so Claypool prudently inquired about the position.

"Well, how much help do you need?" Claypool asked.

"Well, how much can you do?" the ticket seller replied.

"I can do whatever you need," Claypool answered back.

That was 1990, and Claypool has worked for Stanford ever since—all along the way, doing just about whatever needed to get done. She has worked for the ticket office, for facilities and operations, as a secretary for sports teams and as an assistant to the senior associate athletic director. She's now the director of championships for the Athletics Department.

In that position since 2000, Claypool's dedication and long hours ensure that conference and national championship events hosted by Stanford run smoothly. It is in recognition of these efforts that Claypool is a 2009 recipient of the Amy J. Blue Award, which is bestowed annually upon university staff members who exhibit exceptional passion and dedication.

Stanford may host up to 20 championships in a given year, and Claypool organizes and coordinates any activity related to those events. She does everything from making hotel reservations and coordinating banquets to working with coaches and volunteers to make sure that the events are received well by all of the teams and visitors.

"Repeatedly, I hear from colleagues at the NCAA and around the country how much they like having events at Stanford because they know we will run a first-class operation," said Beth Goode, senior associate athletic director. "And that is due in full to Jenny's efforts."

The amount of work it takes to pull off these events might overwhelm someone with less enthusiasm and commitment than Claypool. Recently, she worked nearly 100 hours in one week, organizing conference championships for lacrosse, volleyball and golf. But Claypool doesn't see the heavy workload as a headache; for her it is a challenge and an opportunity to represent Stanford in the best light possible.

"If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right," Claypool said. "Anything that I do is a reflection not only of me but of the Athletic Department and the university. So we should always be putting our best foot forward."

Claypool's drive and work ethic are also a reflection of her dedication to the development of student athletes at Stanford: "Ultimately, my job is to help our student athletes become the best people that they can become, because they are our future."

In addition to overseeing championship events, Claypool interacts with student athletes as the host of New Student-Athlete Orientation every fall and as coordinator of the NCAA post-graduate scholarship program. Gathering interesting facts and details that incoming students include in their orientation RSVPs, Claypool reviews and remembers each one. "When she meets with them at orientation," Goode said, "they are constantly amazed that she knows them, remembers them, and this connection helps students instantly feel welcomed."

As much as Claypool touches the lives of student athletes, they have also touched hers. In 1995, Claypool's father passed away early on a Saturday morning. So, to take her mind off that, Claypool headed to the men's volleyball match that night, where she learned that the coaches had told the team what had happened. Claypool fought back tears last week, as she recalled how the players came up to her, hugged her and expressed their sympathy for her loss.

"To feel like I have a family, a second family, is just so very touching to me," Claypool said. "I'm grateful to have them in my life."

Claypool said she feels lucky to be at Stanford, and that she doesn't know what she did to deserve to be where she is. Claypool said that it is "just humbling and overwhelming to think that people think what I do is worthwhile and worthy of receiving this award."

Casey Lindberg is an intern at the Stanford News Service.