FPU selects alumnus as director of athletics

By wayne.steffen on August 26, 2015 @ 2:36pm
Aaron Henderson

Fresno Pacific University President Richard Kriegbaum, Ph.D., announced the hiring of Aaron Henderson as the university’s new director of athletics August 26, 2015. Henderson, who spent seven years at FPU in various roles including assistant athletics director and men’s basketball coach, returns to his alma mater after spending the past two years as athletics director at Immanuel High School in Reedley.

“When one of our own alumni is selected in a national search, we are doubly pleased and honored,” said Kriegbaum. “It is a special privilege to have one of our graduates return to lead our athletics program into our first year of active NCAA membership. Aaron has a broad and strong reputation among FPU alumni and other supporters, a vital Christian commitment, a passion for holistic student-athlete success, a heart for serving both the FPU campus and the Central Valley community, and the skills and personality to make great things happen.” 

“He has shown wisdom and effectiveness in all the varied roles he has filled in athletics administration. He already is a great ambassador for FPU and he has enormous potential to provide many years of great leadership for the mission, values and vision of the department of athletics and the whole university,” Kriegbaum added.

As an assistant athletics director, Henderson quickly established himself as one of the up-and-coming young leaders in the region, overseeing all event operations for the department while playing a critical role on the administrative team that successfully transitioned the university from the NAIA to NCAA Division II. 

Henderson left FPU in 2013 to become the athletics director at Immanuel, where he has overseen 18 sports and supervised nearly 60 coaches as the director of all athletics programs K-12. During that span IHS has turned into one of the premier high school programs in the state, having experienced significant enrollment growth, expanded sport programs, facility upgrades and never-before-seen media attention.

“I am incredibly humbled that President Kriegbaum and the search committee have entrusted me with the great responsibility of serving our campus, our staff and our student-athletes in this role,” said Henderson. “I’m extremely thankful that I’ve been blessed with amazing mentors, both at FPU and Immanuel, who have encouraged me, challenged me and given me the opportunities that have uniquely prepared me for this position. I couldn’t be more excited about returning to my alma mater as we begin active NCAA membership and continue to establish ourselves as a leading Christian university that serves its student-athletes academically, athletically and spiritually.” 

“One of the things I’m most excited about is getting out in the community, rallying our alumni base and reconnecting with all of our supporters as we share our vision of FPU Athletics as a Christ-centered, student-serving, community-focused department,” he said. “I know that any position of this magnitude has its share of challenges, but we have an outstanding coaching staff and administrative team in place that I’m looking forward to working alongside as we strive to make Fresno Pacific athletics something our student-athletes, staff, faculty, alumni and the entire Central Valley can be proud of.” 

Henderson came to FPU in 2006 as an undergrad after transferring from College of the Sequoias in Visalia. He became heavily involved in both athletics and campus life and was a member of both the men’s basketball team and the track & field team. His leadership potential was evident from the start as he transitioned from student-athlete into a full assistant coach role with the men’s basketball team while still an undergraduate. He was instrumental not only in the team’s success on the court but had a positive impact on the lives of the student-athletes within the program. 

As the lead assistant, Henderson was the one constant for the program while working under three head coaches during the most successful seven-year stretch in university history. The Sunbirds went 139-81 during his tenure as he helped lead the team to its two best single-season records, including a school-record 26 wins in 2009, and three national tournament appearances. In his final season with the team, the school’s first in the NCAA Division II Pacific West Conference, he helped lead the Sunbirds to the NCCAA Final Four. 

As those in leadership took notice of Henderson’s natural ability to lead and take charge, he was given increased responsibility with the day-to-day operations of the entire department. Upon graduation in 2008 he took on the administrative role of events management director in addition to his coaching and was later promoted to assistant athletics director.

In this role he oversaw numerous large-scale events on the FPU campus including the NAIA men’s soccer national championships and the NAIA baseball World Series Opening Round. He managed multiple budgets, frequently developed positive collaborations with other departments on campus, coordinated community service events as the staff advisor for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and gained knowledge of NCAA rules and compliance.  

Henderson also spent two years teaching as an adjunct faculty member in the FPU Department of Kinesiology.

A native of Exeter, CA, Henderson attended Exeter Union High School where he competed in basketball, water polo, tennis and swimming before moving on to College of the Sequoias. While at COS he landed his first job in athletics, returning to his high school to coach with the girl’s basketball team and leading the school to a Valley title and the best season in program history. 

Henderson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in kinesiology from FPU. He is married to former FPU volleyball player Brittany (Pierce), a four-year starter and two-time national champion for the Sunbirds who now coaches locally at Clovis North High School.

Henderson is set to speak at FPU’s student-athlete orientation August 27 before officially beginning his new role on September 8. He replaces previous A.D. Leslie Schuemann, who resigned in June to become the associate commissioner of the Heartland Conference. 

Fresno Pacific currently sponsors 14 intercollegiate athletics teams and competes in the NCAA Division II Pacific West Conference. FPU recently completed the NCAA Division II membership process and is beginning its first year of active NCAA membership.