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Volume 21 No. 26
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Forty Under 40: Lisa Campos

northern arizona university
Lisa Campos’ once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in college athletics came knocking at 4:25 a.m. She was then an assistant dean of students at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Stephanie Rempe, her early-morning running partner and senior associate athletic director, asked her if she wanted to succeed Rempe, who was leaving for a new gig. Campos, then only half-awake, adamantly declined. Fortunately for her — and the two athletic departments she has since reshaped — she woke up.

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At the time, Campos had never thought about working in athletics. She was happy in her student-affairs role and didn’t know what to expect from the culture in athletics. But Rempe and UTEP AD Bob Stull insisted on further discussion, and Campos decided she couldn’t pass up the chance.

Campos spent almost nine years in her associate AD role at UTEP, with Stull encouraging her to become involved with everything from catering to student athletes, which came easy, to facilities and fundraising, which took more time.

“He knew he was preparing me to be an athletic director,” she said.

At the age of 35, Campos had her first interview for an AD job at Northern Arizona. She was offered the job within days and given a clear mandate by the school president.

“He wanted someone who was going to come in, change the culture, have people take notice that this is a Division I program,” she said.

Over the past five years, Campos has transformed NAU into one of the Big Sky’s premier programs. After she filled head coaching vacancies for men’s and women’s basketball with high-priced talent from big-name institutions — Memphis and Arizona, respectively — NAU won the Big Sky Presidents’ Cup for overall competitive excellence in Campos’ first two full seasons at the helm.

In 2014, Campos led the department through a rebrand, reinforcing to the local community, as well as the rest of the Big Sky, that NAU was for real. After bringing home the national championship in cross country last year, the school’s first at the D-I level, Campos has the program poised for unprecedented competitive success.

— Alex Silverman

Lisa campos

Northern Arizona University |
Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics
Age: 39
Where born: La Junta, Colo.
Education: University of Texas at El Paso (Doctorate in education, educational leadership and administration); Colorado State University (B.S., business administration, human resource management; M.S., student affairs in higher education)
Family: Husband, Darren D’Attilio; child, Christopher (2 1/2)

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at age 20: Don’t rush through life, enjoy the moment and have no regrets.

Causes supported: College First Generation Scholarships and the United Way.
Guilty pleasure: Eating a bag of Hershey Hugs.
Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Gregg Popovich.
I’m one of the best I know at … : Keeping a level head and keeping calm during crisis situations.
Most thrilling/adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hiking the Grand Canyon (top to bottom) in one day.
You’d be surprised to know that I … : Have never turned on the oven in my home (I don’t know how to cook!).