Filling the shoes of Jennifer Fight is a tall task. A 13-year member of the Saint Ignatius Athletic Department, Fight dutifully served as the forward-facing member of the team, greeting thousands of students, parents, and alumni. And always with a smile. There will never be another Jen Fight.
But the Athletic Department has found a person who will fill the role well – Marquia Ivey.
Ivey stood out as the perfect person to fill Fight's shoes, amidst a very crowded field of applicants. The hiring team fielded a ton of resumes from a host of very qualified people. The depth and breadth of applicants show the passion and the love our community has for Wildcats athletics, and its 1,000 student-athletes.
Athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick '88 believes Ivey is a great fit for the job.
"Marquia has a great familiarity with Saint Ignatius," says Fitzpatrick. "She's been a part of the community since she was a little kid. Her familiarity with the school is tremendous. She has a great personality. Her experience having been a collegiate athlete, a coach, and an administrator working with young people gave her a good sense of what an athletic department is all about."
Ivey is indeed a familiar member of the Saint Ignatius community. You may have seen her face on campus, as she's a frequent visitor. You may know her mother, Jacqui Lee-Ivey, the Director of Facilities and Events in the Department of Campus Operations. She was a Wildcat Woman of the Week in March, profiled during her 26th year of working at Saint Ignatius.
Though not a Wildcat High alum, the younger Ivey did become involved in the Saint Ignatius community at a young age. She participated in the former "Cats in the Flats" track program as a youngster, as well as in the Arrupe Summer Program for several summers. Ivey attended Villa Angela-Saint Joseph (VASJ) High School, playing basketball for the Vikings. She aided Saint Ignatius basketball camp as a high schooler, mentoring young players. Ivey also helped as a counselor for SEP during the summer of 2009.
Ivey also worked for her mom in the Department of Campus Operations as a janitor in the summer of 2012. Ivey calls the experience working in a different environment a formative one.
After high school, the Clevelander headed to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). She played hoops for the Surge, helping Cincinnati State reach the NJCAA Nationals.
Ivey later transferred to West Virginia State University (WVSU), about a 4-hour drive from Cleveland. With the Yellow Jackets, she played a contributing role at forward, playing 23 games as a sophomore in 2013-14. But more importantly, she discovered her passion for education.
At WVSU, she served in various roles outside the classroom, including as an athletic training intern and admissions employee. Inside the classroom, she worked hard to acquire her bachelor's degree in Sports Studies with a focus in Sport Management. She graduated in 2016, and soon landed a job in sports.
Not long after graduation, Ivey became an assistant women's basketball coach at Lakeland Community College. In this role, Ivey had a wide range of responsibilities, from coaching the team to assembling scouting reports to recruiting to arranging travel for away games.
But her experience in the admissions office at WVSU soon led her back to the administration side, and back to Institute, West Virginia. WVSU hired Ivey as an Admissions Recruiter. In this role, she gained a range of experience, including helping students with paperwork and recruiting, managing high school campus events, serving as a campus tour guide, and selling WVSU to potential students.
Education is Ivey's first love, and why she decided to come to Saint Ignatius.
"Education is my passion," she says. "When I saw the job, I knew it would be a great mixture of administration and sports. I gravitated towards the role because I knew I wanted to stay in the athletics field and work in education. I graduated high school in 2011, so I'm not too far removed from it, and I can relate to the boys and what they're going through."
Ivey's athletics experience will be invaluable for the Athletic Department.
The Athletics Operations Coordinator position involves plenty of "other duties as assigned." One of those responsibilities is counseling and mentoring students who ask for advice. Having been a student-athlete, a coach, and an administrator, Ivey will be the perfect person to go to for guidance.
"A lot of these boys want to do what I did and play in college, whether it's NJCAA or NCAA," Ivey says. "Having been through it, I can prepare them for the next level. My experience has given me a background from the education standpoint. For example, I can help student-athletes navigate the National Student Clearinghouse and the paperwork needed to play in college."
Importantly, Ivey realizes the importance of academics. She learned her lesson the hard way, and can impart her wisdom on the next generation.
"As a student, you need to give yourself a good base and avoid slacking. I slacked my freshman and sophomore years of high school, and that led me to the NJCAA," Ivey says. "I can teach students to avoid some of the same mistakes I made. When I went to high schools and college fairs for WVSU, students often asked about sports, so I'd ask, 'What's your GPA?' The student would say, 'That has nothing to do with sports!' But as I'd explain, you need to meet your requirements. Education comes first, that's why you're called a student-athlete. You may be the next Michael Jordan, but you need to have your transcripts or you can't play. It's not just about talent and flash, it's about the substance and character you bring with you."
Fitzpatrick believes her experience will be indispensable.
"Having been around athletics as a player at the high school level, as well as a player and coach at the collegiate level, her understanding of how athletics works will be valuable," Fitzpatrick says. "With her ties to Saint Ignatius, she understands our Jesuit values and mission. Also, she's gifted in her use of technology, which will help us a lot."
In this position, you greet a lot of people every day. So having a friendly personality and a welcoming attitude is a critical characteristic.
Ivey possesses this quality in spades, along with a growth mentality.
"All of the candidates we were looking at had a great, welcoming personality, and Marquia is no different. You have to have that. That's a huge strength of Marquia's, as she's a welcoming, friendly person," Fitzpatrick says. "She's also willing to take on any responsibility we throw at her. She's very open to growth and taking on anything we need her to do. She's a very hard worker."
Ivey will be starting later in August, and can't wait to dive into the job.
"I'm excited to be part of the community," Ivey says. "I'm eager to connect with the boys and my new coworkers in the athletic department. Having been a part of the communtiy for so long, I can't wait to come home. I'm excited to work at a place where I'm supported, can be innovative, and have creative freedom. I can't wait to learn, grown, take on responsibility, and do the best job I can."