Duncan Stevenson 
Pierce College 
Athletic Director 

Duncan Stevenson is quick to define himself, be it from a true sense of self-awareness or to make sure others know that his job title and job duties don't fully align with what people might traditionally assume.


Yes, he is the athletic director at Pierce College. Has been for 37 years.


And he's a damn good one -- those are others' observations, not his own -- as can be ascertained from the many committees he's headed, projects he's driven and the two Dutch Treibwasser Awards he picked up for outstanding service to Northwest Athletic Conference student athletes. 


But he has not walked a traditional path. Nor does a school like Pierce really have need for a traditional AD in the mode one might expect at the University of Washington or even Pacific Lutheran University. In fact, when he was notified he had been named as the winner of the Doug McArthur Lifetime Achievement Award, his first instinct was to pass and let somebody else be honored. He didn't really see the fit.


"I have read a lot of bios for people who win awards like these and (my bio) is different," he said. "I was not a standout athlete in college. I was not a standout athlete in high school. I did not make a varsity team in high school. I was on the basketball C team and so I do not have that high-profile background that so many have, which makes me a bit of a fish out of water. When I talk to sports management students I tell them that mine is probably the least traditional path to becoming an athletic director that they will ever find. I came in through the backdoor and have been here 37 years."


Stevenson has been at Pierce for a very long time and his career can be judged on a metric that might not mean much to some, but in higher education it remains the ultimate mission despite what it can seem in the era of one-year coaches, quick transfers and disintegrating tradition: "We are always focused on student goals and student needs and how we help them on their path to success."


And it's aways "we" with Stevenson. Sometimes he's referring to longtime collaborator Cheryl Batschi, whose 46 years at the school make Stevenson look like a relative rookie and for whom he cannot offer enough praise or respect. She was there when the guy from Davis, California, by way of Western Washington University and Gonzaga was hired out of food service, more for his business sense and budgeting acumen than anything about sports. Other times he's referring to the coaches and other Pierce staff, all working well off the radar of mainstream sports consciousness. Other times it's the student athletes or just students who never played a sport.

"Pierce College is just a really odd duck," Stevenson said. "It is the ultimate kind of underdog and you do not have facilities, your coaches are all part-time and you are fighting uphill against everybody and I guess that is my lot in life and I have been fighting to prove that we can be successful and not from championships, but turning out good, young people and helping their journey and giving them an opportunity at this level and at the next level in both sports and school."


When Stevenson does leave Pierce -- and he said he can see the end, though it's not imminent -- he will have left it better than he found it. He once had to cut a deal with Pierce County for the Raiders to play their games in the Lakewood Community Center because a coach he was hoping to hire would not agree to coach a team that played at Western State Hospital. The Raiders ended up back at Western State, but Stevenson eventually was able to engage student leadership in getting a full-service health facility built -- including a gym for the school's volleyball and basketball teams -- and is soon to open a baseball facility in conjunction with the City of Lakewood. When the Pierce College Health Education Center opened in 2007, it was the first of its sort since the school started competing in sports in 1967 and a jewel for the area. It also happened during an era when Stevenson was more than the athletic director, but had full oversight of all student activities, student government and the student newspaper among them. 


Stevenson said he believes Pierce is the home of second and third chances and once was called to the cafeteria to break up a fight between players over a jersey number. He eventually had to remove one of those players from a team for poor grades and later was able to hire that same former player as head coach. The personal growth that allowed for that trajectory is what Stevenson takes pride in most. 


The Raiders have won two Northwest Athletic Conference titles in his time -- 1992 in soccer, 2012 in baseball -- but the number that perhaps defines him best is the 97 percent, year-to-year, athlete retention rate. It's a staggering number and an indicator of the significant program stability student athletes experience at Pierce. 


"I think it goes back to that he cares and he just looks for the best in people and tries to bring it out of students," Batschi said. "Even if it appears they are struggling in a class, he looks for ways to help them so they can keep moving forward. People come back to us and they come out of the woodwork to say what a great experience they had while they were here."


Another Stevenson legacy is the Pierce College Athletics Hall of Fame, which has inducted five classes of athletes. One of those included a posthumous honor for former basketball player Tony Adams, who was murdered in Alaska, but whose four children all reunited for the first time in years as their dad's number was retired.


"I still cry when I think about Tony Adams," Stevenson said.  "It was so impactful for me. ... It's those pieces that makes it a special journey. I am just really thankful for the path that my life has led me down."