Making history: Stillman set to become Maroons' first female athletic director

Making history: Stillman set to become Maroons' first female athletic director

CHAMPAIGN — Jane Stillman admits her decision to apply for Champaign Central's open athletic director position wasn't as simple as throwing her name in the proverbial hat.

"I went back and forth. I won't lie about that," said the 10-year Central assistant principal, who has served the institution for 15 years altogether by way of coaching roles in basketball, soccer and track.

There's nothing unusual about pondering a new job, of course. What likely separates Stillman from many others, however, is how she approached the interview process and subsequent recommendation from Central's hiring committee.

"I didn't tell my husband at first," Stillman said with a laugh. "I was like, 'Oh, I guess I better go tell my husband they're offering it.'

"I didn't tell anybody that I applied other than (a few) people. I wanted to get it on my own."

Mission accomplished.

Stillman will take over for outgoing AD John Woods beginning July 1, becoming the first female in Maroons history to hold the position and replacing an individual who has run Central sports since 2003.

"Athletics is very much in my blood, and I love a challenge," Stillman said. "I think it's something I fit right into."

Stillman isn't kidding about that. In addition to studying athletic training in college, Stillman is the cousin of both Army football coach Jeff Monken and Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken, as well as the niece of five uncles in the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

So Stillman clearly has a passion for the sporting world. But that alone doesn't explain why she wished to follow in the footsteps of Woods amid an $87.1 million construction project at Central that includes the building of new baseball, softball and soccer facilities.

The mother of two former Maroon athletes and an incoming third later this year pointed to the bevy of plaques, banners and other honors hanging in Central's Combes Gymnasium as part of her inspiration — a desire to help the school's athletes create and maintain an identity.

"I was here when (Woods) came in, and ... very little of this (was here)," Stillman said. "To see how much Maroon has been added to this building, I want to keep up with that. And I don't want someone new coming in and being like, 'Oh, we don't need this.' Because I think we do."

Stillman also has lived in Champaign for 24 years with husband Kery. While she's originally a native of Belleville, Stillman admits she's now a Maroon at heart.

"I want somebody to keep this going ... for the community. This is my community," she said. "This is home. My kids have lived here their whole lives. They've never even moved houses."

Even with all of that in mind, Stillman still had to endure a rigorous interview process. But frequenting the building on West University Avenue for more than a decade would offer her a boost on that stage, right?

"It was kind of difficult, to be honest," Stillman said. "Sometimes when you go into an interview, you can fluff your stuff and you can make yourself look better, but you can't do that when it's people you know."

Stillman combated this by being "very honest with my background and my reasoning for wanting" to be the next AD. Clearly, a hiring committee that included Woods liked what it heard.

And Stillman's not resting on her laurels now that she'll helm Maroon athletics.

At the suggestion of Woods, both Stillman and assistant AD Anne Lunsford attended a national athletic directors convention between the time Stillman was given the job recommendation and when she was approved by the Unit 4 Board of Education in mid-May.

Perhaps the most interesting item Stillman has learned from her appointment is how much it means to some observers that a woman is in this position. It's not something that initially affected Stillman, as "that's not how my parents looked at anything" when she was growing up.

"There are a lot of people that are really excited about having a female in that department because it's something different," Stillman said. "I'll take it on, and it's not going to affect me."