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MIAA Commissioner David Neilson to Retire at Conclusion of 2013-14 Academic Year

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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ALBION, Mich. – David L. Neilson, the commissioner of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association since 2002, has announced he will retire from the position at the conclusion of the 2013-14 academic year.

The announcement of Commissioner Neilson’s retirement came Tuesday from Dr. Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran, president of Kalamazoo College and vice chairwoman of the MIAA Presidents’ Council.  He is the eighth and third-longest serving commissioner in the MIAA’s 126-year history.

Calvin’s Director of Men’s Athletics Dr. Jim Timmer, and Calvin Director of Women’s Athletics Dr. Nancy Meyer, also offered words of thanks and congratulations to Neilson for his years of service to the MIAA.

“Dave has been a strong proponent of the Division III philosophy, emphasizing academics and athletics,” said Timmer. “He has always had a strong passion for the MIAA and for the student-athletes in our conference. His commitment to our league and to our student-athletes has been exemplary. I congratulate him for 12 wonderful years of service to the MIAA.”

Meyer concurred. “Dave has been an outstanding leader for our conference and for Division III athletics,” said Meyer. “He has been a strong advocate for the ideals of what a student-athlete should be at the NCAA Division III level. We are grateful for his service and congratulate him on a job well done.”

According to Neilson, the feeling is mutual.

“These last 12 years have been a labor of love for me, and I will always regard this position as the highlight of my professional career,” Commissioner Neilson said. “I have been blessed in being able to represent the nine great institutions that comprise the nation’s oldest collegiate athletic conference.”

Commissioner Neilson has been a highly visible presence on MIAA campuses and in NCAA Division III athletics during his tenure. He has been a member of the NCAA Division III Commissioner’s Association for 12 years and was a founding board member of the association’s Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Committee. He has also been a member of the NCAA Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee for six years, making him the committee’s longest-serving member.

“Dave Neilson has brought not only a passion for intercollegiate athletics, but also professionalism, fairness, and deep respect for the academic mission of the member schools in his role as MIAA commissioner,” Dr. Wilson-Oyelaran said. “He has been a tireless advocate for our student-athletes and will be sorely missed.”

Under Commissioner Neilson’s leadership, highlights included:

- Increased recognition of student-athlete academic achievement and the introduction of the Sheila Wallace Kovalchik and Albert L. Deal Scholar-Athlete Awards, presented to the MIAA’s outstanding female and male senior scholar-athletes each spring;
- Greater focus on student-athlete well-being protocols and implementation of a conference-based MRSA prevention program;
- Standardization of conference championship and NCAA tournament Automatic Qualification (AQ) determinants;
- The addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse as MIAA championship sports during 2012-13 season.

Commissioner Neilson’s involvement in intercollegiate athletics dates back to his days as a student-athlete at MIAA member Albion College. He lettered in football for four years at Albion and twice earned All-MIAA honors as quarterback for the Britons before graduating in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and economics. He earned All-American honors in his senior year and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League.

Prior to joining the MIAA, Commissioner Neilson had a successful career in the automotive industry for more than 30 years, most of them at Rockwell International. He launched manufacturing businesses in both North America and Europe, as well as engineering joint business ventures in Japan. He was instrumental in the launch of air bags as standard production equipment in automobiles in the 1990s.

Commissioner Neilson has coached most sports that the MIAA sponsors, including baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, football, cross country, basketball and track and field. He coached at Shady Side Academy Prep in Pittsburgh, Pa. and at the American School in London, England. He also served as president of the London Baseball Association while living in England.

Commissioner Neilson and his wife, Karen, live in Royal Oak. They have four children and five grandchildren.

The MIAA is the nation’s oldest collegiate athletic conference, founded in 1888. The MIAA consists of nine private colleges from Michigan and northern Indiana. Member institutions are Adrian College, Albion College, Alma College, Calvin College, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Olivet College, Saint Mary’s College and Trine University.

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