Heather Benning ’96

Jeremy Shapiro

Heather Benning ’96 never thought she would be part of conversations that decided the course of the NCAA basketball tournament and other collegiate sports championships.

In a volunteering journey that started when she was soccer coach at Grinnell College 18 years prior, Benning was part of the team that guided the country’s largest collegiate amateur sports organization through the pandemic. A member of the NCAA board of governors and chair of the Division III Management Council, Benning helped tackle sport cancellations; return to competition; student-athlete eligibility; name, image, and likeness; and a bevy of other substantial issues.

It was exhilarating and exhausting.

“It was an excellent professional opportunity to be at the table during a crisis,” Benning says. “I got to hear how the pandemic was affecting different institutions and conferences and take part in unprecedented discussion about how to move forward with college sports during a pandemic.”

Benning has served as executive director of the Midwest Conference since March 2014. She oversees the administration of 18 varsity sports and is the conference’s chief administrator on financial, compliance, and operational matters.

“My volunteer roles with the NCAA helped me feel really grounded when I would have conversations in the Midwest Conference about what we were going to do as a league,” Benning says.

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