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Nance Reed, who coached Towson field hockey and was trailblazing athletics administrator, dies

Nance Reed, former senior associate director of athletics at Towson University. Credit: Handout
Nance Reed, former senior associate director of athletics at Towson University. Credit: Handout (Handout / HANDOUT)

When Nance Reed agreed to attend Michigan State University on an athletic scholarship, her decision was welcomed by her parents, James and Cynthia Reed, despite the fact that they were graduates of Ohio State University, a rival institution in the Big Ten Conference.

It also stoked the competitive fire between father and daughter.

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“They had sort of a friendly rivalry going, particularly my dad and Nance if Michigan State and Ohio State were playing one another,” recalled sister Barbara Reed. “If Ohio State won, he’d always say to her, ‘Hey, so sorry about the game.’ And she would say the same thing. She would go, ‘Wow, sorry, Dad.’ And he would say, ‘Yeah, right.’ There was no animosity about it at all. It was just a source of a friendly rivalry.”

Ms. Reed coached the Towson field hockey program for four years before becoming the university’s first female athletics administrator in its NCAA Division I history and senior associate athletic director. She died Nov. 19 at her home in Fallston due to cancer. She was 63.

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Ms. Reed worked with seven different interim and permanent athletic directors during her 31-year career with the Tigers — a testament to her staying power as a trusted and productive colleague, according to Terry Wanless, the interim athletic director who helped hire Ms. Reed in 1982.

“She was, in some respects, the one constant in that chain of command,” Mr. Wanless said. “So I think her legacy is simply one of where she stayed the course. While people disagreed with her at times because of the way she saw things, you have to give her credit for the fact that she endured and did a lot of great things during the time she was there.”

Ms. Reed was the second of five children born to Mr. Reed, a grain merchandiser, and the former Ms. Davidson, a homemaker and part-time writer and poet. Growing up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Ms. Reed rooted for the New York Yankees and the New York Jets, while her younger sister supported the New York Mets and the New York Giants.

“We were typical siblings,” Ms. Reed said from her home in Centreville, Virginia. “We were like, ‘Oh, you like this? Well, I like that.’”

Ms. Reed said her older sister initially stood out as a middle-distance runner in track and field but rose to athletic stardom locally as a prolific member of her high school’s field hockey team.

“I think she had a natural affinity for the game,” Ms. Reed said. “She was good at seeing the patterns on the field and where the ball would be, not just where it was, and where people would be. … She practiced at it, and she worked at it.”

Ms. Reed said her sister originally went to Michigan State for track, but when she tried to match the times needed to run competitively at the college level, she suffered a stress fracture in her leg. She then turned her attention to field hockey, where she was a four-year letter winner.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in physical education in 1979, Ms. Reed assumed the head coaching reins at her alma mater, guiding the field hockey program to a 24-17-2 record in two seasons and earning a master’s in sports psychology in 1981. But she elected to move from the Spartans to Towson to be closer to her family and take advantage of more opportunities for career advancement.

Mr. Wanless, who chaired the search committee that recommended the school hire Ms. Reed as its next field hockey coach, said Ms. Reed’s enthusiasm helped differentiate her from other candidates.

“I think Nance’s energy always stood out,” he said. “She was always willing to take on any and all responsibilities. When you gave her a task, she jumped right in and worked hard at it. She wanted to learn.”

After leading the field hockey program for four years, Ms. Reed retired from coaching in 1986 to become an assistant athletic director whose primary responsibility was transitioning the Tigers from the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the NCAA. She coordinated student-athlete tasks involving compliance, academic services, financial aid and eligibility.

In 2001, Ms. Reed oversaw internal operations, which included budgets, facilities, team support services and equipment. She was a member of the group that directed a $32 million renovation of Johnny Unitas Stadium for the football team and was integral in the construction of SECU Arena for the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

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Margie Tversky, who joined Towson in 2001 when former athletic director Wayne Edwards hired her to succeed Ms. Reed in the areas of academic compliance and student services, called Ms. Reed a mentor who ran a tight ship when it came to finances.

“She held people accountable for their budgets,” Ms. Tversky said. “She also was helpful in terms of helping people strategize. She wanted people to establish goals and develop a pathway toward achieving those goals. …

“I think she tried to be very equitable. There wasn’t one sport that was more important than another sport. In that regard, maybe there were some issues because certainly with football and men’s basketball and other revenue-producing sports, there’s a tendency to want to give to those programs more. But there was a concern that the same opportunity should be given to other sports programs, especially women’s programs that don’t have that history and don’t have that kind of support.”

In 2010, Ms. Reed was promoted to senior associate athletic director for team administration, a position in which she was charged with developing administrative oversight for all of the university’s sports programs. Over the course of her career, she served on the NCAA field hockey committee, helped bring NCAA women’s lacrosse Final Fours to Unitas Stadium in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014, and was honored by several organizations, including the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports, which gave Ms. Reed its Pathfinder Award.

In 2004, Ms. Reed was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She overcame that obstacle and two more bouts with the disease in 2016 and 2018.

“I think to some extent, she gritted her way through it, but she also had faith in her doctors,” Ms. Reed said of her sister. “She had faith that she would get through it.”

Ms. Tversky said Ms. Reed tried to prevent her health from affecting her work productivity.

“When she couldn’t come into the office, she worked from home,” Ms. Tversky said. “She was very persistent and was a true professional in that regard. She took her job very seriously.”

Ms. Reed left Towson in 2013 and started a consulting business called Sports CORE 4 Athletes that helped high school athletes and their parents navigate the recruiting process.

Ms. Reed said her sister had fond memories of her career.

“She was very proud of the work she did,” she said. “She always stressed the role of the scholar-athlete and was very proud of the number of scholar-athletes that they had in the program. She was proud of the work she did, particularly with women’s athletics, but also with men’s athletics, too.”

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Ms. Reed said her sister loved animals, especially her rescue dog Dori, penguins and tigers, watching live sporting events involving Michigan State, Yankees, Jets and Ravens, and taking her now 12-year-old niece Rachel Williams to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. She also had a spot-on impersonation of Donald Duck’s voice.

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There will be no funeral for Ms. Reed, per her request. The family will gather for a private ceremony at a time to be determined.

In addition to her sister, Ms. Reed is survived by a brother, Kenneth Reed of Falls Church, Virginia, another sister, Anna Reed of Falls Church, a best friend, Patti O’Shea, and a niece.

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