Last month at the 2022 CIAA Basketball Tournament in Baltimore, one well-dressed woman stood out from the large crowds along the sidelines at Royal Farms Arena encouraging her participating teams from Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) onto victory.
Not only does Etienne Thomas have a unique first name, she finds herself in a unique role, as one of a minority of women in American colleges and universities who can claim the title of “Athletic Director.”
At WSSU, Thomas smiles at the thought of being included in such a smallish sorority of female athletic directors in a work role typically delegated to men. Even at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) the position of director of athletics, is almost always fielded by males.
After earning a political science degree from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, North Carolina, Thomas, 47, matriculated to the University of Iowa, where she completed coursework for her law degree. During her 22 years as a successful college administrator, Thomas has worked in several positions with varying responsibilities throughout the nation.
The Waterloo, Iowa-born, proud mid-westerner, was raised in Hempstead, New York. Her husband of 22 years, Byron Thomas, formerly plied his skills on the gridiron at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The couple has one son, Jermaine; and raised a cousin, Sydney, now 25.
Thomas claims a successful stint with Kansas University’s Jayhawks, in a significant role along her path. Two years ago, before arriving at WSSU, she served as athletic director at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her past jobs also include her alma mater, NCCU, San Jose State University; Howard University; and St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia.
As member of the 2022 CIAA Tournament Committee, Thomas says she was impressed with CIAA’s first return to Baltimore since 1952.
According to CIAA Committee final statistics, “the 2022 tourney attracted about 66,000 patrons, who watched 22 games during its five-day run— February 22-26, 2022. Championship day games attracted 13,207— easily outnumbering 2019 Championship Day totals in Charlotte by nearly 4,000 attendees.”
CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams said the Baltimore return was a “resounding success.”
Thomas concurred with the commissioner adding “she’s anticipating another CIAA celebration in the Charm City next year.”
Thomas also proudly noted that her parents, Karl and Cheryl Hollingsworth, were in attendance all-week, loudly supporting WSSU Rams’ men’s and women’s hoop teams, band and cheerleaders.