Men’s lacrosse midfielder Hunter Embury will serve as the Vice Chair of the MAAC Student Athlete Advisory Committee for the next two years. His teammate, fellow midfielder Joe Tierney, played a big part in that.
Marist men’s lacrosse player Hunter Embury is set to represent the college in a way no other athlete has done before. The junior midfielder was voted to the Vice Chair position of the MAAC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in April.
The committee gives student athletes an unimpeachable voice within the conference about student-athlete well-being and proposed changes to NCAA rules. Embury officially begins serving at the start of next semester, aiding Turner Dirrigl — the SAAC’s Chair and a cross country/track-and-field runner from Canisius — in devising ways to help student athletes and address key issues. Embury will take part in the MAAC SAAC’s end-of-the-year meetings to transition into the position and will attend and take notes during their monthly Zoom meetings when his term officially begins.
“The conference has done a tremendous job with assisting student athletes and giving them a voice, especially in the difficult times that we have experienced over the last year or so,” Embury said in the MAAC’s statement announcing his selection. “This is an amazing opportunity to work with conference leaders in order to build upon the mission of SAAC, and I will do my absolute best to enhance the student-athlete experience for everyone within the conference.”
“Hunter being selected for this position is obviously a reflection of who he is as a teammate and leader of our program, and he’s been that way since he arrived on campus,” head coach Keegan Wilkinson said. He hopes that having a Red Fox in the MAAC SAAC will benefit the entire athletic department, not just his team. “When it comes to decisions and communications that are happening at a conference level, to have somebody in the room from our team and from our athletic department, I think that’s obviously huge,” Wilkinson continued.
The application process consisted of two rounds of brief questionnaires, the latter of which required making video responses. One question asked applicants to pitch an initiative they would enact. For his, Embury discussed an initiative to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines and resources for those looking to get vaccinated.
“I think the college has done a good job doing that around campus, so I just wanted to spread that to the conference and help other student athletes,” Embury said.
One of Embury’s primary focuses once his term begins will be mental health, which he noticed was adversely affected by the lack of sports during the campus-wide pause. “I know that a lot of the kids’ experiences here over the last few weeks of not having sports has been a draining experience,” he said.
While the MAAC SAAC deals with conference-wide matters, each school has their own, too. Each varsity team offers two representatives for the Marist SAAC. Embury and Joe Tierney, a graduate-student midfielder, served as the men’s lacrosse team’s reps for the 2020-21 season.
The midfielders were responsible for debriefing the team on important matters and bringing issues to the attention of the committee. They touched base with Wilkinson after the committee meetings and decided if a specific topic was worth presenting to the team, which usually took place in a post-practice setting a few times per month.
Embury’s desire to join the conference’s student-athlete advisory committee stems from the work he did with Tierney. The leadership of his elders — namely Tierney and graduate-student defenseman Sam Ahlgrim — provided an example of how to be a leader. Following this example, Embury said he wants to be someone athletes can come to and feel certain that their voice will be heard at the conference level.
Tierney got involved with the Marist SAAC as a sophomore. He became the Chair for the Athletic Subcommittee, serving alongside President Murray Couselant, a member of the men’s swimming & diving team, and Leadership Subcommittee Chair Sarah Austin, an outside hitter on the women’s volleyball team.
In his first year with the Marist SAAC, Tierney worked with senior goalie Brian Corrigan. Though he only had one year of experience working with an upperclassman, Tierney immediately made an impact. He and women’s water polo goalie Hope Vickers were selected to attend a MAAC SAAC conference at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. In the three-day visit, Tierney met other college’s representatives, conferenced with administrators and took part in community service activities.
After years of being Embury’s upperclassman, Tierney and Elizabeth Donohue, the college’s Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator, suggested to Embury this past summer that he look into the Marist SAAC. It takes a nomination to be considered for the spot, which Wilkinson and Tierney did.
“He’s definitely a good leader,” Tierney said of Embury. “[He] takes academics and athletics just as serious… he’s a vocal guy, which is something we need in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee — to speak up on behalf of certain issues or even things that are great going on.”
Embury said the decision for him to get involved was a no-brainer. “We’ve been meeting every few weeks since the beginning of school and it’s been awesome just to see updates within the NCAA, within the athletic department, and around the school,” he said. “I’ve been really grateful to serve at this position, and it ultimately led to me wanting to do more at the conference level.”
He didn’t jump at the chance to reach the position right away, though. When Dirrigl attended a Marist SAAC meeting to inform them about the upcoming vacancy in the Vice Chair position, Embury was intrigued but unsure how to approach it. He consulted with Donohue, Couselant and Tierney, who helped convince him to pursue the position. Wilkinson gave Embury advice for his video responses.
When the official tally declared Embury the next Vice Chair, there wasn’t much celebration, as the restarted season was nearing. Still, he said, it didn’t take away from the happiness he felt in the moment, made all the more special because Tierney texted him right away.
Embury built upon the foundation of student-athlete advocacy that Tierney helped him reach. He reached higher and advanced to the level above the college, holding the college’s student-athlete leadership torch at the highest level it has ever been. Still, he believes that he’ll be frequently looking down to the college level for help.
“I think I’ll definitely be going to [Tierney] a lot because he’s got a lot of experience that I don’t have right now,” Embury said. “He’s always helped me out…so he’ll definitely be a big help for me.”
Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Nick Stanziale
Photo from Marist College Athletics