What they left behind

Athletics department reflects on Stava-Steuve departure

Uriah Aguon, staff writer

Former SPU athletic director Jackson Stava (center) hands coach Grant Leep the game ball from his 100th win at the helm of the SPU mens basketball team as Zack Paulsen (right) looks on. (Rio Giancarlo)

The recent departures of former Athletic Director Jackson Stava and Associate Athletic Director Shelby Steuve left a hole in the Seattle Pacific athletic department. Having each been part of the department for nearly seven years, they left a lasting impression on the community.

Biology professor Eric Long, also the faculty athletics representative, recalls his first impression of Stava, how he carried himself and how he best used his position as athletic director.

“Jackson was awesome. I remember when we were interviewing him, and he just jumped out at us as a fantastic candidate,” Long said. “He had a unique background. A lot of folks that become athletic directors come up through college athletics, [but] that wasn’t really his story. His major was youth ministry, and he really took that mindset wherever he went, so you could really see that Jackson’s primary concern was mentoring our student athletes.”

Long added that Steuve was brought in by Stava early on during his time at SPU, and they both worked for the benefit of their student athletes.

“One of the first things he did was bring Shelby on because they’d worked together at a previous institution … Shelby’s job was to oversee compliance,” Long said. “Jackson and Shelby kind of redesigned her position so that it wasn’t just checking boxes to make sure [students were] eligible. She became the assistant athletic director for compliance and student success. Shelby took on this huge advising role, so a ton of student athletes were coming in and out of her office … trying to find that balance between being a student and being an athlete.”

Shelby Steuve (far right) looks towards the flag during the national anthem before the Womens volleyball senior night game. (Rio Giancarlo)

Vice Provost of Student Formation Jeff Jordan said it was tough for him to see the pair leave SPU.

“It was a bit of a gut punch because I had the opportunity to actually hire Jackson with President Martin … I have a fantastic team, and he was part of that fantastic team. He and Shelby both have done such a wonderful job of building a great team over in athletics,” Jordan said. “It was tough when I heard that he was leaving and then Shelby was leaving as well. It’s like, ‘Oh, boy! What are we going to do?’ That was the reaction I had at that point.”

Jordan expanded on his position, saying he was understanding as a friend, but he was also struggling to let them go as a faculty leadership member.

“I did try …” Jordan said. “I wanted really bad to keep Jackson and Shelby here because I felt they were just a valued part of our leadership. I tried to understand why they made the decisions that they made … I knew this was happening before the actual quote-unquote offer and announcement, and so you’re always trying to balance what’s right for the person, for their family and for their careers, and at the same time, say, ‘I want you here, because you’re really good.’”

Long and Jordan both respected Stava and Steuve as important members of the athletic department and both agreed that bringing the fall sports festival to SPU was a major part of their legacies. Jordan credits the pair for establishing SPU’s credibility in the world of Seattle sports.

“They really got us connected with the Seattle Sports Commission. We just hosted the fall sports festival, so we’ve gotten — through Jackson and Shelby’s work — really great credibility in the athletics world, professionally and collegiately, in Seattle, but also nationally. Those are some things I think are legacies of what they’ve done …” Jordan said. “They did it in a way that was very well-done and we just got a report back from the NCAA [about] hosting the fall sports festival, and [there was] incredible praise, just wonderful stuff.”

Long claims the fall sports festival was the best note the pair could have left on, considering the challenge of organizing the event and the opportunity to showcase the university.

“I think it was a great opportunity for SPU to bring a lot of folks who hadn’t been to SPU before to kind of let them see our campus …” Long said. “When we told Jackson he had to do that … he just decided to take that on because I think he wanted to showcase SPU. I think they left on the best note possible.”

Long and Jordan further explained their gratitude to Stava and Steuve for coordinating with their new employers at California State Polytechnical and Vanguard to put off their departure long enough to see the festival through.

“I want to compliment both Jackson and Shelby for making sure that they did SPU and the NCAA and the GNAC well. They represented all of us so well with sticking around and working with their new employers to do that. I also give kudos to Cal-Poly and also to Vanguard for saying, ‘We’ll give you some time to work things out at SPU.’ I have nothing but positive things to say in the midst of significant change,” Jordan said.