George Gagnier graduated in 1988 — and has been a mentor and athletics behind-the-scenes guru ever since.
By Brett Ford
After being part of SUNY Geneseo in one capacity or another for nearly 40 years, George Gagnier ’88 has become one of Geneseo’s most recognizable faces — both on and off campus. He strikes up conversations with nearly every employee he passes and is seemingly omnipresent at campus events and activities.
“I refer to George as the ‘Mayor of Geneseo,’” says Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Mooney. “He seems to know everybody in town by name and remembers everyone. I’m willing to bet if a student-athlete played any time during the last 30 years, George would know them by name and be able to recall a memory of that student-athlete’s career.”
After his time as a student in the mid-1980s, Gagnier served in several positions within residence life and athletics before becoming the assistant director of athletics in 2012. He wears several hats in this role. He manages athletic facility operations and scheduling, staffs all aspects of event management and schedules intercollegiate athletic contests. He also chairs the Geneseo Sports Hall of Fame committee and serves on the athletics department leadership team and several other committees both on and off campus.
It’s the details of the job that make his days unique and his work so important, Gagnier says. “If I do my job well, it likely isn’t noticed. But if I do my job poorly, it will be noticed for sure.”
The logistics of hosting more than 100 home athletic events during the course of the academic year can grow arduous, but attention to detail and his love of Geneseo make Gagnier the person for the job.
“It’s a long list of checking and double-checking,” he says, “to make sure we’re ready to go and that all the constituents of the game can come and have a positive experience at Geneseo.”
Though all the little things Gagnier does to enhance the Geneseo student-athlete experience are important, it’s the relationships he has built along the way that mean the most to him. Gagnier has worked with hundreds of students, becoming a mentor and an advocate for those under his charge.
“As soon as I arrived on campus, George allowed me to immerse myself in Geneseo athletics,” says Mark Fratto ’99. Fratto worked for Gagnier in the athletic communications department throughout his college career and went on to a successful career as an athletic communications professional at St. John’s and the University of Maryland before starting his own entertainment company, Linacre Media. “His passion for Geneseo athletics was immediately contagious, and he provided an environment where [students] could be creative,” says Fratto. “He encouraged us to be professional but also to have fun.”
Paul Cripps ’21 worked with Gagnier for four years in athletic event operations and earned the Nick Hayes Memorial Award last spring.
“George trained me to operate all aspects of athletic event management,” says Cripps. “He helped me gain confidence to the point where I was able to train other students in the same roles. He helped to put me in a position to succeed and helped me build skills that translated to my college and professional career.”
Throughout his decades on campus, Gagnier’s love for Geneseo has only grown. He’s perhaps best-known as the public address announcer at Ice Knights games — a role he graciously volunteers for in addition to his professional duties. Gagnier, however, is less concerned with the recognition of his role than he is with the experience he provides for those in the stands.
“The energy and enthusiasm that the students and community bring to support our student-athletes is second to none,” says Gagnier. “It’s my job to make sure they have a great experience.”
Looking back, Gagnier is proud of and thankful for the students he has worked with, mentored, and seen them succeed in their dreams over the years, including those who have followed in higher-education footsteps.
“It’s gratifying for me to know that when I worked in residence life, I had some students who went on to work in residence life. When I was a coach, we had players who went on and became coaches. When I was the sports information director, same thing. Now, there are students we work with who are venturing into athletic administration,” says Gagnier. “The fact that we get to set examples of what it’s like to be professionals in our careers and that the students we work with aspire to do the same things that we do is really fulfilling for me.”