Knight Commission Announces New Membership Appointments of Walter Harrison, Penelope Ward Kyle, G.P. “Bud” Peterson and Nancy Zimpher

Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Co-Chairmen William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University of Maryland System, and R. Gerald Turner, president at Southern Methodist University, announce the appointment of four new members to the Commission: Walter Harrison, president, University of Hartford; Penelope Ward Kyle, president, Radford University; G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president, Georgia Institute of Technology and Nancy Zimpher, chancellor, State University of New York.

Combined, the four new members bring 53 years of presidential leadership to the Commission and are currently or have recently been involved in the governance of Division I intercollegiate athletics.

“We are delighted to add four leaders of such high caliber to the Commission,” Kirwan said. “They are not only revered leaders on their respective campuses, but also are respected nationally for their expertise in a broad range of higher education areas, including intercollegiate athletics.”

“These are unprecedented times for college sports,” Turner said. “These leaders understand both the benefits and challenges inherent in major college sports and are aware of the current landscape that increasingly threatens the integrity of intercollegiate athletics.”

The Knight Commission continues its work to promote a reform agenda that emphasizes the educational mission of college sports. Over the years, the NCAA has adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations including the rule that requires teams to be on track to graduate more than 50 percent of their players in order to be eligible for postseason championships.

Walter Harrison has been particularly active on NCAA academic reforms, having chaired the NCAA’s Committee on Academic Performance since its establishment in 2004. That committee is most noted for its creation and oversight of the Academic Progress Rate, which tracks academic performance for all Division I sports teams and poses sanctions, including postseason restrictions, for teams that do not meet prescribed academic standards.

Harrison will be honored with this year’s NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award, which recognizes an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for college sports over the course of his or her career. Harrison will receive the award on January 15 at the NCAA’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

Harrison has been president at Hartford since 1998 and has overseen dramatic improvements in academic quality, finances and fundraising at the 7,000-student campus. He graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, where he played college baseball, and then earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and PhD from University of California-Davis. He eventually became Michigan’s vice president of university relations and secretary of the university before being appointed president at Hartford.

Kyle became Radford University’s sixth president in 2005, the first woman to hold that office. She has more than 30 years of experience in the legal and corporate worlds, in state government and in higher education, including practicing law at a large international law firm before becoming the first female officer at a Fortune 500 company. She is a member of the board of the Fulbright Foundation program that provides Fulbright scholarships for faculty and students who study and/or teach in the U.S. and Canada. During her presidency at Radford, the school has launched its first doctoral programs and has secured funding for more than $330 million in capital projects at the nearly 10,000 student population university.

In 2011, she became the first woman to be elected president of the Big South Conference and has represented the conference as a member of the NCAA Division I Presidential Advisory Group since 2009.

Kyle earned her undergraduate degree in English from Guilford College, completed postgraduate work in English at Southern Methodist University, has a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and an MBA from the College of William and Mary.

Peterson became Georgia Tech’s 11th president in April 2009 after spending three years as chancellor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Throughout his career, he has played an active role in helping establish national education and research agendas, serving as a member of a number of congressional task forces, research councils and advisory boards, including the Office of Naval Research, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the National Research Council and the National Academy of Engineering. He was appointed to the National Science Board in 2008 by President George W. Bush, and again in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

Peterson earned B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and mathematics and an M.S. in engineering from Kansas State University, where he lettered for three years as a tight end/wide receiver for the Wildcats football team. He earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University. He is beginning a term on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors as the Atlantic Coast Conference’s representative.

Zimpher became the 12th chancellor of the State University of New York in June 2009. With nearly 463,000 students and 64 colleges and universities, SUNY is the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education. Before coming to SUNY, Zimpher served as president of the University of Cincinnati, and chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She has been the first female in her position at all three stops.

Zimpher has served on NCAA Division I governance groups as well, spending two terms on the Division I Board of Directors and one on the NCAA Executive Committee.

Harrison, Kyle, Peterson and Zimpher join Rhodes Scholar and former Florida State University football All-American Myron Rolle as the most recent additions to the Commission. Rolle, who joined the Commission in September, is a second-year medical student at the Florida State University College of Medicine.

For member photos and complete biographies, visit

About the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

The Knight Commission was formed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in October 1989 in response to highly visible scandals in college sports. The Commission’s goal is to promote a reform agenda that emphasizes the educational mission of college sports. Over the years, the NCAA has adopted a number of the Commission’s recommendations including the rule that requires teams to be on track to graduate more than 50 percent of their players in order to be eligible for postseason competition. The Commission’s Athletic and Academic Spending Database provides financial data for more than 220 public institutions to provide greater financial transparency on athletics spending.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit