After 16 transformative years at the helm of San Antonio Sports, Executive Director Susan Blackwood will leave her post at the end of the year and step into a new role conducting governmental relations for the organization during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session. After the session concludes, she will undertake a massive, one-year fundraising effort for the organization’s endowment, Team SA.
Russ Bookbinder, who currently serves as Associate Vice Chancellor for Corporate Engagement at Texas Tech University, has been named the new President and CEO.
Blackwood informed the San Antonio Sports Board of Directors in August 2011 that she would be transitioning out of her position and directed Chairman George Block to establish a search committee to identify a new leader.
“Susan really initiated her exit strategy five years ago, so we’ve been preparing for this for quite some time,” said Block. “It speaks volumes about her commitment to the organization and to the San Antonio community that she committed to raising the endowment to ensure our youth programs will continue decades into the future.”
Currently, the endowment holds $750,000. Blackwood aims to raise $15 million through planned giving initiatives to fund the San Antonio Sports youth programs that benefit children and families across San Antonio and make it possible for many youth to earn college scholarships.
“Every day, we see sport and fitness transform a child’s health and self-esteem, transform our city’s economy and personally transform the directors, staff and volunteers who serve our community through San Antonio Sports,” Blackwood said. “I could not leave the organization without knowing the funds were in place to continue this important work.”
Under Blackwood’s tenure, the nonprofit organization grew its annual budget from $125,000 to $3.4 million, with 60 percent funding programs that help children establish healthy lifestyle choices, including afterschool programs, Dreams for Youth and the Valero GO!Kids ChallengeTM.
“Susan is a focused and passionate leader, and nobody has worked harder than she has to make San Antonio the amateur sports capital of America,” said Bill Greehey, Chairman of NuStar Energy and one of the founding board members of San Antonio Sports.
Greehey, who attended the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta with Blackwood, said he witnessed firsthand the amount of respect she engendered in international amateur sports circles.
“I was amazed to see that she literally knew every amateur sports official there,” Greehey said. “What makes Susan so special is that despite her incredible achievements and accolades, she has absolutely no ego. She doesn’t take credit for all of the great things that San Antonio Sports has done for our community, but the truth is that we wouldn't be where we are today without Susan!”
San Antonio Sports has hosted major sporting events such as the NCAA Men’s Final Four Basketball Championships, the Women’s Final Four, the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships and the Rock ‘N Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon. Since 1991, those events have had a direct economic impact of more than $400 million and have brought national and international media exposure to San Antonio.
In 2003, San Antonio Sports led a legislative effort to secure state funding through the Major Events Trust Fund, an incremental tax on major events that has generated rebates to the city totaling more than $18.4 million. In 2007 and 2008, the nonprofit campaigned for the passage of city and county bond campaigns to build new sports fields and facilities.
“Susan Blackwood is a pure treasure for San Antonio,” said Red McCombs. “She has widened our range of involvement in amateur sports and made us a favored spot for championships. I wish her well in her new roles and I know that she will still be singing the San Antonio tune.”
Russ Bookbinder, who spent 20 years with Spurs Sports & Entertainment before leaving in 2008, is uniquely qualified to help San Antonio Sports reach its goals, said George Block. The organization is also working to create its own large-scale, competitive, amateur athletic events in San Antonio.