By Mark Soltau
Eileen Gall never officially ran the Stanford athletic department. It just seemed that way. For 29 years, she worked closely with four athletic directors, dozens of coaches, and 100’s of donors and former student-athletes to enhance, promote, and celebrate the department in a way no one else could, always with a soft touch, a warm smile, and an infectious laugh.
“Eileen is the face of Stanford Athletics,” said Dick Gould, MA ’60, the John L. Hinds Director of Tennis. “She’s the one the public knows. She’s just an incredibly efficient and talented person, and so good with people. All of us who have had any dealings with her have all the respect in the world for her, who she is, what she does, and how she does it. When you talk about Stanford being a class act, she epitomizes that. She is irreplaceable.”
No one knows that better than Bernard Muir, the Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics. During his two years on the Farm, he has come to realize what a key role she has played in fundraising, organizing awards lunches and dinners, and helping staff members and scholarship recipients stay in touch with important donors.
“She is a resource and an institution here,” Muir said. “She’s got such historical perspective that can’t be replaced, and not just in athletics. I was in the Bing Concert Hall the other night and everyone to a person just said in their own way how much she has meant to this place. We will do our best to take the information and knowledge she has provided to become a better department.”
Jenny Claypool, Director of Championships, loved working with Eileen.
“She is really cool,” said Claypool. “She, almost more than anybody, enjoyed the relationships she had with the donors and enjoyed helping them. When they come to Stanford or when they call to ask her questions about how a team is doing, she puts down everything and is willing to help them so they feel like they are part of the family as well.”
Mark Marquess, ’69, the Clarke and Elizabeth Nelson Director of Baseball, said Eileen was never too busy to help coaches, student-athletes, or donors.
“You could always call her with any problems and she would get it addressed,” said Marquess, now coaching in his 38th season on the Farm. “A lot of times that is forgotten. You miss that personal touch, and she always provided that. Donors and friends of Stanford really appreciated what she did. Even though she didn’t go to Stanford, it’s that love of Stanford and love of Stanford Athletics. Anytime you spoke with her, you had that sense. She was always upbeat and positive. I’m really going to miss her.”
Likewise for Cardinal diving coach Rick Schavone, PhD ’79, who recently announced his retirement after 36 years.
“It’s the first journey with Andy Geiger (former athletic director) and all the memories that I will cherish,” he said. “The first part of our journey was hard. We were a small family and helped each other and worked together. Eileen has been one of the greatest ‘mothers’ in that department. She took care of all of the coaches. The department couldn’t have grown like it did, couldn’t have prospered, without people like Eileen.”
Added Gould, “In my 48 years here, I don’t know if there is anyone in the department who has given me more pleasure to work with than Eileen. She will drop everything to help you and listens extremely well.”
Gould is slightly biased.
“The thing I owe her personally the most for is she was the one who kind of took the ball with my retirement party and turned it into a million-dollar fund raiser,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Last Thursday, Gall officially retired from her position as Director of Stewardship. She was honored at a going away tailgate party—she chose the theme—at Jimmy V’s Sports Café that drew a crowd that included university administrators, athletic department staff, current and former coaches, and many donors to the program. Former men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery and his wife Sarah joined the celebration, as did ex-standout running back and former Senior Associate Athletic Director Darrin Nelson, ’81. Montgomery recalled how he used to drop by Eileen’s office to raid her pistachio jar, when in reality he just wanted to gossip.
Modest to the end, Eileen had the best seat on the patio, a cold drink in hand, and let others do the talking.
“She has a very calming presence and rolls with the punches,” said her daughter Christa Gall McLoy, Assistant Director of Donor Relations. “She always makes sure people have what they need and are comfortable.”
Christa has worked at Stanford for 20 years and carpooled with her mother from Newark most of the time.
“We prepared for the day and talked about what each other was working on,” Christa said. “She’s such a good sounding board that even the athletic director would ask for her advice.”
At the recent 25th Annual Shultz Cup, an invite-only fundraiser for the men’s and women’s golf teams that Eileen organized and oversaw, she received a standing ovation during dinner at the Faculty Club, where attendees included former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice.
“I’m so happy for her,” said Christa. “In her role of taking care of people, she doesn’t expect to get that kind of recognition because she’s a behind-the-scenes person, not an in-the-spotlight person.”
And that’s how Eileen preferred it.
“I always had access to things like parking and the press box,” she said. “If you can help people, it’s easy. Having been here for so many years, I knew how to get things done. And they were happy.”
Although her husband, Gary, was a controller at Stanford, Eileen had no intention of working on the Farm. One day, he came home with a campus report listing a job opening in development, so she made a call and received an interview with hiring manager John Kates, ’58. Eileen was called back for a second interview and was hired as a secretary for the director of development.
Already a season ticket holder for football, basketball, and baseball games, Gary left Stanford to start his own company and Eileen scaled back her workload to 75 percent. But soon after, Kates convinced her to return full-time and she did, becoming an administrative assistant for him and Liz Sloan, ’79, who now serves as Senior Director of Campaigns and Operations for the university’s medical center development team.
“When the women’s basketball team went to the Final Four, I had to call the donors for their social security numbers so they could travel to the White House with the team,” said Eileen. “Then, somehow, I got a lot of events added to my plate: the old press box, the Hall of Fame Dinner, and the Athletic Board Awards Lunch. As things came up, Ted Leland (PhD ’83, former athletic director) would add to the event platter.”
Another duty was to inform donors who the recipients of their scholarships were.
“And I said, ‘Maybe they’d like to know how much it is worth and what it pays out,’ ’’ Eileen said. “So I used to make up a little financial report and sent it with a letter. I sent one to Ric Johnson, ’48, and he said, ‘Why am I not getting this from other schools (at Stanford)?’ So he went to John Ford, ’71, (the university’s chief fund raiser) and John said, ‘Oh, I guess maybe we should do it,’ and that’s what created the stewardship program. Then they felt like they had to give me the job.”
One of the highlights of Eileen’s position was assigning a student-athlete to a scholarship. She particularly enjoyed matching the Frankie Albert Scholarship underwritten by John, MA ’70, JD ’73, and Terry Levin, ’74, MA ’81, to Andrew Luck, ’12.
“Because Andrew was a quarterback and so was his dad,” said Eileen. “I tried to make a good connection. Otherwise, they went into a pool.”
Her other favorite perks were attending the Rose Bowl, Final Four, and College World Series. She also enjoyed working with former Stanford baseball great and longtime radio announcer Bob Murphy, ’53, at various events, especially the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner, and listening to student-athletes speak at the Stanford Athletic Board Awards Lunch.
Among the things colleagues will miss most about Eileen is the annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch, for which she recruited athletic board members Tony Meier, ’57, and Duncan Matteson to feed the staff. For nearly a dozen years, Meier has flown in special corned beef from Seattle for the occasion, while Matteson has taken care of the amenities.
“She’s a sweetheart,” Meier said of Eileen. “There was no one more devoted. She’s a walking encyclopedia. She was truly the concierge of the department and ‘No’ is not in her vocabulary.”
As for retirement, Eileen is looking forward to cleaning out her house, spending time with her four grandchildren, and attending Stanford sporting events … as a fan.
“I can actually cheer for the teams,” she said.
All agree her departure leaves a huge void.
“You’ve got to be able to massage any personality so they feel good about their interaction with Stanford Athletics, and she was able to do that with grace and care,” said Muir. “That will be missed.”