Vanderbilt's Candice Lee becomes first black, female athletic director in SEC history

History was made at Vanderbilt University on Thursday.

The school announced that it has appointed Candice Storey Lee as its full-time athletic director, lifting the interim title she held since February.

Lee, who will also hold the title of vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs, is the first woman to hold the AD title at Vanderbilt. More significantly, she is the first African American woman to lead an athletic department in the history of the Southeastern Conference.

“Candice is perfectly positioned to lead our athletics program to new heights of success on and off the field of play. She has the drive, creativity, and perseverance to help elevate our student-athletes, and the entire Vanderbilt Athletics program,” incoming Vanderbilt chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in a statement. “The progress that Vanderbilt Athletics has achieved in recent years, and our very high aspirations for the future, are grounded in the university’s commitment both to academic excellence and to preparing our student-athletes to play and win in one of the most, if not the most, competitive conferences in the country. Candice is the living embodiment of these values and aspirations.”

Added Lee:

“I am incredibly honored to lead the Commodores, and I could not have been in this position without the support of the university’s leadership, our dedicated coaches and staff, and all of Commodore Nation. There are challenges ahead and much uncertainty about what college athletics can and should look like during a pandemic, but I firmly believe that anything is possible if we all work together. My priority, and the university’s priority, continues to be examining everything we can do to support our student-athletes and ensure their safety and well-being. We also continue to prepare for the future — determining and establishing the conditions our student-athletes need to compete and succeed at Vanderbilt and beyond.”

Vanderbilt interim athletic director Candice Lee answers questions during a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Former athletic director Malcolm Turner resigned Tuesday, Feb. 4, after one year at the school. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
After previously serving in an interim role, Candice Lee has been elevated to full-time athletic director at Vanderbilt. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Lee is no stranger to Vanderbilt. Before she became the interim AD, replacing Malcolm Turner, Lee previously served as the school’s deputy athletic director (since 2016) and senior woman administrator, dating back to 2004. She also worked as an athletics academic adviser, compliance director and associate athletic director during her time in the department.

Lee was a captain on the women’s basketball team at Vanderbilt, graduating in 2000 after helping the Commodores reach four NCAA tournaments. She later earned her master’s degree in counseling in 2002 and a doctorate in higher education administration in 2012.

Lee is now the fifth female athletic director among the Power Five conferences, joining Penn State’s Sandy Barbour, Washington’s Jennifer Cohen, Pittsburgh’s Heather Lyke and Virginia’s Carla Williams. Williams, in 2017, became the first African American woman to become an AD at a Power Five school.

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