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JU athletic director stepping down

AD to focus on work as full-time professor at Jacksonville University

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville University Athletic Director Dr. Donnie Horner is stepping down to focus on his work as a full-time professor, the school announced Wednesday.

Horner will be transitioning from his athletics' department responsibilities, effective April 30.

JU Senior Associate Athletic Director of Administration Alex Ricker-Gilbert has been named the school's new athletic director, effective May 1, 2016.

"I'm ecstatic to lead the Athletic Department and thank President Cost for the opportunity,'' Ricker-Gilbert said. "For the past couple years I have had the benefit of Dr. Horner's mentoring and it has been a pleasure working with him. I look very forward to building on the great foundation of improvements laid by Dr. Horner in the future.''

Horner has led the 20-sport department, which is home to 501 Division 1 student-athletes, for two years while continuing his work as a full professor at the university.

During Horner's tenure, JU athletic teams have excelled in the classroom and on the field.

Seventeen of the 20 teams have achieved a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and student-athletes have performed more than 5,000 hours of community service this academic year.

In competition, in the past two academic years the Dolphins have won 26 team and individual championships with dozens of JU athletes participating in NCAA national events. Five track and field student-athletes earned NCAA Division 1 All-American recognition in 2015.

"I immensely value the chance to have served in this capacity, it has been an honor,'' Horner said. "I have been around athletics most of my adult life and to be able to work with our quality coaches and student-athletes has been most fulfilling. I sincerely thank President Cost for this opportunity.''

As head of Athletics at JU, Horner created the Student-Athlete Center for Success to expand student-athlete services while focusing on student-athlete development, study skills, and academic advising.

While serving as Chief Athletics Officer, Horner maintained his heavy workload as Davis College of Business professor, co-authoring and publishing four articles in the last year, teaching two MBA courses, one Executive MBA course and one Doctorate of Business Administration course, earning him the distinction as the only NCAA Division 1 full-professor/Athletic Director in the country.

"This is an exciting time for JU Athletics and we are very proud of the outstanding leadership of Donnie and Alex," JU president Tim Cost said. "Together, they have created the exact culture we believe in: one of excellence, integrity and service. It's a good day for our dedicated coaches, student-athletes, staff and the entire JU family."

A native of Bressler, Pa., Horner graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science. He later served as the Officer Representative of Academics & Operations for Army Football. He received an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Prior to coming to JU, he served as a Distinguished Professor of Leadership Education in the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

Ricker-Gilbert came to JU in 2014 as Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student-Athlete Services and in January was elevated to his current position. He came to Jacksonville having spent the previous three years at Longwood.

Horner praised Ricker-Gilbert's contributions, "Alex has been at the forefront in the improvements to our athletics operations. His leadership and knowledge of NCAA compliance and his experience with student-athlete support se vices has been of incredible value to the institution."

Prior to his post at Jacksonville, Ricker-Gilbert served as Longwood University's senior compliance officer for its 14 Division I programs. He also served as academic adviser and sport supervisor for a number of teams. In addition, Ricker-Gilbert oversaw the scholarship budget, served as adviser on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and was the liaison to financial aid, the registrar, admissions, and housing.

Before Longwood, Ricker-Gilbert worked as the interim Compliance Director at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne. At IPFW, he oversaw the development, implementation, and enforcement of the NCAA compliance program, conducted all rules education meetings with coaches, coordinated academic operations, and provided NCAA interpretations to coaches, staff and support groups, boosters, and student-athletes, among his various other responsibilities.

While completing his master's degree at West Chester University, Ricker-Gilbert worked as in both the Villanova and West Chester University athletic departments. At Villanova, he coordinated community service events for the student-athletes, assisted with senior preparatory programming, facilitated SAAC activities, and assisted in the coordination of the Champs/Life Skills program. At West Chester, he assisted in the oversight of the compliance program for WCU's 24 athletic teams.

A native of Tolland, Connecticut, Ricker-Gilbert earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from Penn State University and his Masters of Public Administration degree with a Graduate Certificate in Sport Management and Athletics from West Chester.