Shawn Heilbron officially became Stony Brook’s new athletic director on July 1, but it took a lifetime of work to get him to this point.
Heilbron grew up in Dallas, Texas. As a Cowboys fan, one of Heilbron’s role models was Roger Staubach, the Cowboys quarterback. “ He (Staubach) was Mr. America, a great quarterback and a great person.” said Heilbron. “I had chance to meet him when I was a kid, and I really looked up to him growing up.”
This interest in sports led Heilbron to the college of communications at the University of Texas at Austin, with the end goal of becoming a sports broadcaster. However, he changed his mind during his senior year.
“My senior year in college, I had a crossroads moment where I did an internship at the local ABC affiliate in Austin, and I thought ‘This is the first step in my first step toward my career in broadcasting.’ The only problem was it just wasn’t for me.”
After graduating, he returned to Dallas and attempted to find a job with one of the city’s numerous professional sports teams. The only team that gave him a shot was a minor league hockey team, the Dallas Freeze. The job only lasted six months and he received no salary. But it gave him his first experience working in athletics.
After his job with the Dallas Freeze, Heilbron went on to a job at Southern Methodist University (SMU), which involved him working to help market the college’s sports. Heilbron greatly enjoyed this job.
“I loved the energy of the college campus, I loved the fact I was involved not just in one sport but multiple sports,” he said.
He then went on to work at Pinnacle Trading Cards, a private sports cards company, but returned shortly to SMU as director of marketing for athletics. This was the point when Heilbron confirmed that he wanted to work in college athletics.
“I loved working with student athletes and realized that we were doing was trying to change lives student athletes’ lives better,” he said.
After eight years at SMU, in 2006, he accepted a job at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as associate director for development. In this capacity, he oversaw most of the fundraising for UCLA athletics.
However, living in Los Angeles was a hard adjustment for Heilbron, his wife and their three children. So in 2011, Heilbron took a job at Oregon State University as senior associate athletic director. He oversaw fundraising there as well, and helped to raise millions of dollars for Oregon State’s sports programs.
His family enjoyed living in Corvallis, the small, quiet town where Oregon State is located. But they missed the excitement of living in a big city. While in Corvallis, Heilbron realized that his next career move needed to work not just for him professionally, but for his family as well.
The opportunity he was waiting for came earlier this year, when he received the offer from the Stony Brook. Heilbron knew the job was right for him professionally.
“I knew Stony Brook was incredible school with an athletic department that was growing and accomplishing great things,” he said.
He also knew that its location on Long Island and being near New York City would make it great for his family. As a result, Heilbron decided to accept the position at Stony Brook and begin not only his tenure as the university’s athletic director, but also the next chapter – for himself and his family.