The minute Mollie Marcoux walked on to Princeton’s campus as a high school student, she “just knew” that it was the place for her. Marcoux had options. As a standout soccer and ice hockey player, she could’ve chosen from any number of other Ivy League or Division I schools. But it was Princeton’s focus on academics—as well as the culture—that lured Marcoux to become a Tiger.
Known as the “Tasmanian Devil” for her relentless spirit and ferocity on the field and ice, Marcoux quickly became one of Princeton’s finest female athletes. She was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1988 and to the Ivy League’s Silver Anniversary ice hockey team the following year. When she graduated in 1991, she was the school’s all-time leading scorer and still ranks first in most goals in a season (35).
So when Princeton approached her about becoming its first female athletic director, the mom of three was intrigued. Real Woman talked to her about what she hopes to do at Princeton and why she believes her career has been forever changed by her participation in athletics.
Real Woman: You were the executive director of Chelsea Piers in New York City and Connecticut when Princeton approached you about this job. What was your first thought?
Mollie Marcoux: I love Princeton—it’s always been a big part of my life—so when they called, I listened. At first, I thought, “This isn’t where my career is going.” But as the months-long interview process progressed, my enthusiasm continued to grow. I loved the idea of returning to help move the athletic department forward.
RW: What was it like being a student athlete at Princeton in the late 80s and early 90s?
MM: Even back then, Princeton did a great job providing equity among men and women across their sports programs. I always felt like I was engaged in a program where they really cared about sports. I think the difference now is the level of athleticism we’re seeing in women these days. I’m blown away by the talent, skill level, and intensity I see among Princeton’s female athletes.
RW: Do you think your participation in sports as a kid and adult continues to impact your life today?
MM: Absolutely. I believe it’s vitally important for girls and women to play sports, as it gives them a foundation that sets them up for success. Playing sports allowed me to forge ahead in my career in many ways. What I learned from being an athlete about teamwork and perseverance—not to mention how to deal with setbacks—are all lessons that changed my career and life for the better. I think playing sports also helped me feel really comfortable around men. In a business environment, I’ve always known and trusted that I can compete. Using sports as an analogy for my work life has also served me. At Chelsea Piers, my colleagues were my teammates. Now, I’m a coach. Being successful—say, meeting a budget or launching a new initiative—is like a win. When something doesn’t work out, you know you’ve got to get back out there and do it again. That idea of continuous improvement—that you can always work harder and be better—will always lead to success.
RW: What’s the best advice you can give women about how to succeed? First, encourage your daughters to play sports. And if you didn’t play as a kid, get into athletics now. You learn so much. Second, dig in to the point where you’re working as hard as you can—and always be willing and wanting to let others around you succeed, too. Collaborate with people as if you’re players on the same team. How you get along with others, whether it’s at work or in your social circle, makes you successful.
MM: Finally, I think it’s crucial to do what you love. I’m lucky to say that that’s where I’m at right now in my career. Working with Princeton’s amazing coaches, as well as with these young, intense, and immensely talented athletes, how can I not come to work with a big smile on my face?