I remember the first time I met Lynn Tubman. I was with some fellow student athletes during orientation weekend and we approached Associate Athletic Director, Megan Patruno and Assistant Athletic Director, Lily Otu – who we were quite familiar with – in Seegers Union.
Patruno introduced me and the group to the newest member of the Muhlenberg athletics family. Our new leader.
Tubman reached her hand out and gave, to this day, one of the best and most professional handshakes I have ever received. After each of us introduced ourselves she would repeat our names back to us.
“Hi, I’m Matt.” We shook hands. “Matt,” said Tubman.
“I am Justin, nice to meet you.” She shook his hand. “Justin,” she quietly repeated back.
The group of us continued our trek to the dining hall. We looked at each other clearly impressed with Tubman’s presence during the encounter.
“She’s going to fit in well here.”
Tubman’s first semester as Muhlenberg’s director of athletics and recreation is coming to a close. Her position is one she knew she would eventually end up in despite entering Allentown College (now DeSales University) as a nursing major – mainly because of her mentors.
She credits both her high school and college basketball coaches for sparking her interest.
“In high school my coach, Maryann McNichol was a role model and mentor. She was a Villanova grad and was always so passionate about coaching,” said Tubman. “I thought ‘she really loves what she’s doing’.”
Not the response one may expect from an athlete who was cut from her high school’s basketball program during her freshman year. Tubman then went on to make the junior varsity team her sophomore year but didn’t log a single minute on the court. To improve play Tubman conditioned and practiced with the boys team at her high school, and still shows gratitude towards their coach, Phil Martelli, who allowed Tubman the rare experience. The hard work payed off; Tubman was a varsity level starter during her junior and senior seasons and had earned opportunities to continue her career at both the Division I and Division III levels.
Continuing her career at Allentown College led her into another mentor: Tom Shirley. “Tom Shirley had been recruiting me more aggressively than anyone and I felt like I would had an opportunity to potentially play all four years. That was more attractive to me at the time than going somewhere and maybe playing by junior year,” said Tubman.
“I was a shooter. I wasn’t necessarily fast or overly athletic but I was fortunate to have a coach that had a system that worked around my strengths. I worked hard and I enjoyed the competition.” – Lynn Tubman
Shirley introduced Tubman to the administration side of college athletics. “He was just one of the most organized individuals that I have ever met. He did a great job at managing and delegating,” she said. “He was very intelligent and was a very good coach. Being a head coach and an athletic director isn’t very easy, and I always tell him – because he is still doing both.” After his time at Allentown College Shirley continued his career as the head women’s basketball coach and vice president of athletics at Thomas Jefferson University. The 2018-19 season marks his 30th with the institution.
“I got the big picture and saw what he was doing for me as a student athlete beyond what I was learning on the court,” said Tubman. “ I thought, ‘Wow, this is a pretty impactful role they have’.”
Tubman’s solid work ethic and mind for basketball was what helped her earn All-American honors three times as a player. “I was a shooter. I wasn’t necessarily fast or overly athletic but I was fortunate to have a coach that had a system that worked around my strengths. I worked hard and I enjoyed the competition,” Tubman explained. The current DeSales women’s basketball record book is still littered with the name “Lynn Butler”. Atop of almost every scoring category, she still holds the record for most points scored in a career with 2,193, set upon her graduation in 1987. She is the only player in school history to ever clear the 2,000 point mark.
After acquiring a masters from Lehigh Tubman worked for five different institutions in a plethora of administrative and coaching roles. Most recently, she served as the director of athletics for nine years at Chestnut Hill University.
“A successful athletic director must possess the leadership skills to develop shared visions for a department to grow.” – Lynn Tubman
Tubman’s she wasn’t aggressively searching the job market while at Chestnut Hill. “I saw the Muhlenberg opening and I knew a lot about the Lehigh Valley from being an undergrad and graduate student here. I knew about Muhlenberg’s academic excellence, the Centennial Conference and Division III.”
Tubman’s well rounded resume has helped her understand how a director of athletics achieves success.
“An athletic director has to be multi-faceted.”
“There is so much that college athletics encompasses. It’s hiring and managing coaches, managing facilities and generating revenue. It’s getting to know the people you are working with and what their strengths are. That’s a key. Learn everybody’s strengths and capitalize on them,” said Tubman.
“Athletic directors are responsible for building a community that strives to achieve individual, team and department success. Listening and communication are important traits in team building. A successful athletic director must possess the leadership skills to develop shared visions for a department to grow.”
She expanded on good listening skills: “In this role, taking the time to observe what the current culture is and getting to know the individuals in the department and throughout the campus community is important,” said Tubman.
She also recognized some specific wants of the Muhlenberg coaches, who she credits for welcoming her with open arms. “Having transparency and shared governance is important to be a good athletic director,” she said. “Shared governance where the coaches want to have more of a role, not just in their program and their program’s success, but also understanding how we operate as a department.”
And of course, Tubman recognized aspects of Muhlenberg’s reputation as the caring college during her interview process. “A sense of community among the coaches is strong. They all have needs and desires but they would be willing to understand what the priorities are.”
As for those priorities, “I am trying to figure out the best infrastructure. I think we need a more concrete procedure and policy manual to help us with internal operations,” explained Tubman.
“I knew, being a former Division III athlete, it is the purest form of college athletics. Student athletes are playing for the love of the sport,” – Lynn Tubman
This does not mean losing sight of external operations. “Externally we do some great things like the Scotty Wood Tournament, the golf outing and the Buttermaker Tournament. How do we capitalize on those and make them stronger? We have great alumni engagement and support, but how do we engage alumni who have not been involved? Those are some things we will be focusing on.”
“It takes a full year to get a full understanding of an institution and sometimes you have to be patient, however I want to make effective change immediately,” said Tubman. She admitted this is one of the only challenges she has faced since coming to Muhlenberg. “Being impatient is a pressure I put on myself, just like I did when I was a student athlete.” She said reminding herself some initiatives shouldn’t be rushed is an important part of the job too. “I know assessing the current infrastructure is crucial, and that takes time. Effective growth and improvement requires assessment. I want our programs and student athletes to be successful. I want to provide them with a positive experience.”
And though it seems that she attends any and every sporting event she can, even traveling six hours each way to Alliance, Ohio this past weekend to watch the football program in their first ever elite eight appearance, she will not become satisfied until she has met all of Muhlenberg’s student athletes. “My interactions with the student athletes have been positive. I wish I had developed that area of my job a little more, but it’s something I continue to focus on,” Tubman said. “I think there are enthusiastic students who have some great ideas on how to improve the student athlete experience. They want to do more than just compete in their sport.”
For Lynn Tubman, this is the second time she has found herself a home at an Allentown college. “I knew, being a former Division III athlete, it is the purest form of college athletics. Student athletes are playing for the love of the sport,” she began. “My experience as a Division III athlete made me want to come back to a Division III institution and give back; hopefully to give student athletes the same experience that I had.”