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Holly Roepke returns to head athletics and recreation

Brisa Zielina
After two years as senior associate athletic director at California Lutheran University, Holly Roepke has been appointed Grinnell College’s director of recreation and athletics.

Holly Roepke is returning to Grinnell College as the newly-appointed director of recreation and athletics after two years at California Lutheran University where she served first as senior associate athletic director and later as director of athletics. 

“I think there is an incredible opportunity to be a voice of what physical education, athletics and recreation look like at Grinnell for the future, being built on a strong foundation and legacy,” Roepke said of her decision to return.  She previously acted as the assistant athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion at the College.

Roepke said that her first order of business is understanding her new role on campus. 

“Understanding what the role is here at Grinnell and the external impact of Grinnell by listening and learning has been my focus,” she said.  She added that she is especially interested in what students have to say.

“I’m looking to get student input on what needs and interests are and to be able to tailor programming, especially in the recreation and physical education space, towards current and future student needs,” Roepke said.  

She added that listening and learning also helps her to avoid making assumptions about Grinnell College after being away for two years. 

 “I think it’s unfair to come in with a prescribed vision without understanding the needs, wants and wishes of the College, department and division,” she said.   

Even at an early age, Roepke focused her personal vision on athletics.  

“Growing up, I did everything. I played football every lunch in elementary school, volleyball, softball, basketball, soccer and punt, pass and kick competitions.”   

While studying organizational leadership at California Lutheran University, Roepke played soccer for the school. Her involvement with athletics prompted her initial 12 year career teaching physical education.    

In terms of watching sports, Roepke enjoys basketball and football. Her favorite National Football League team is the Los Angeles Rams, as they trained on the California Lutheran University campus.    

Understanding what the role is here at Grinnell and the external impact of Grinnell by listening and learning has been my focus.

— Holly Roepke, director of recreation and athletics

Outside of her career, many of Roepke’s hobbies combine both athletics and family.    

“My oldest son just graduated high school and is now in college. Those years were spent taking him around to all his sporting events on weekends and nights. I have a kindergartener and we haven’t really started into all of that yet, so it will be interesting to see.”    

Roepke said her participation in athletics, both professionally and personally, has provided her with the necessary experience for her new role as director of recreation and athletics and insight into a mentality of success. She reflected on the character traits that she is most proud of exhibiting through her career.  

“I think overall, it’s my determination. I’ve used setbacks as stepping stones along the way. I overcame a lot to be able to be here today and I’m proud of that,” Roepke said.

Correction: This article was corrected to say that Holly Roepke also later served as director of athletics at California Lutheran University, not just as senior associate athletic director. The article also incorrectly stated that the Los Angeles Rams trained on the same field as the California Lutheran University Football Team rather than on the same campus.

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About the Contributors
Addie Persian
Addie Persian, Staff Writer
Addie is a first year from a town smaller than Grinnell (yes, it’s possible) in the middle of Minnesota. She enjoys playing tennis, shopping, eating sour candy, and going to the casino; all of which are definitely not an addiction… She is intending to major in psychology and/or political science and loves to write both scientifically and journalistically.
Brisa Zielina
Brisa Zielina, Staff Photographer
Brisa Zielina is a first year and an aspiring Theater major with a concentration in American Studies from Los Angeles, California. She loves singing and acting and uses the word “slay” way too often. When she’s not slaying the day, she’s probably in rehearsal or studying on the third floor of the HSSC. If you see her around campus, say howdy, she’s always happy to make new friends!
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