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Former East Stroudsburg star found post-playing niche in higher education

By Lauren Ely

For NCAA.org

Lori Pio-Jacques knew she didn’t want to sell insurance.

Pio-Jacques, a former women’s basketball standout at East Stroudsburg University, finished school with a degree in business. Not positive about what she wanted to do with her life, she sold automobile insurance after college and worked in disability claims.

“I started to do automobile claims, and it was the absolute worst job ever,” Pio-Jacques said. “I decided I would give the whole insurance field one more chance, so I started to do disabilities claims. That was probably the second-worst job ever.”After a couple years in the working world and one degree under her belt, Pio-Jacques was back asking herself the question so many young people ask themselves: What do I want to do with my life?

So she went back to something she knew, something she had excelled in: intercollegiate athletics.

Pio-Jacques, the middle child of eight, grew up playing sports. Basketball, football and baseball – her family had always had enough members to field its own team and play.

“There was always something kind of athletic that we were doing,” she said. “That’s what we would do some nights after dinner. We’d go outside and play baseball.”

But one sport in particular sparked her interest. As a kid, Pio-Jacques remembers learning how to shoot free throws in her garage way with her dad and oldest brother, John. By seventh grade it was clear the 5-foot-10-inch middle schooler had a future on the hardwood.

Pio-Jacques’ hoops career began at the St. Anastasia School and continued through high school in Saylorsburg, Pa. She knew by her freshman year of high school that she wanted to play in college, but she just didn’t know where.

Being the first in her family to be recruited for a college sport, Pio-Jacques said it was an intimidating experience. But then Leslie Potts, one of the coaches of a nearby rival high school Pio-Jacques, landed the head coaching job at East Stroudsburg and invited her on a visit.

“I played against her all of high school, for three years,” Pio-Jacques recalled. “She knew I had some talent.

“I’d have to say in high school I was not the player she made me in college. In college I was a good player. In high school I had a lot of potential. I just needed someone to develop it, and she realized that.”

Pio-Jacques excelled on the court at East Stroudsburg.

She was a three-time All-PSAC East selection, earning first-team recognition as a junior and senior. In the 1994-95 season, she helped lead the Warriors to a PSAC championship and scored her 1,000th point in the PSAC championship game. East Stroudsburg also won the PSAC East regular season in each of her last three seasons and earned NCAA tournament berths in 1994 and 1995.

Also a two-time ECAC All-Region first team selection, Pio-Jacques ranks first at East Stroudsburg in career rebounds (1,023) and field goal percentage (52.1) and ranks fifth in scoring (1,527 points).

Using the same dogged determination as she did to excel in basketball, Pio-Jacques has climbed the ladder of success in her professional career in higher education. After swearing off insurance, she went back to her alma mater and completed her master’s in sport management in 2000.

That became a professional springboard that has led to a fulfilling career. For her accomplishments on the court and in higher education, Pio-Jacques was selected as a PSAC representative on the Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team, an honor recognizing former student-athletes whose lives reflect the core values of the Division II student-athlete experience.

Beginning as an intern event coordinator at Villanova, she later served several years at Massachusetts-Amherst as the assistant to the director for athletics development, became the assistant director for the Boston College Alumni Association and, eventually, the director of alumni outreach at Northeastern University until she finally landed at Massachusetts-Dartmouth as the assistant vice chancellor of alumni relations.

Pio-Jacques said she is proudest of the work she has done to grow the alumni base at Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

“Many alumni did not feel like the institution was there for them and had changed their attitude toward the school,” Pio-Jacques said. “In fact, connecting them and getting them to attend more of the programs we’re doing - I was very pleased with the progress we were able to make in bringing back those positive memories about their alma mater.”

Continuing to aspire for more success in higher education, Pio-Jacques recently accepted a position at Northeastern as assistant vice president of alumni relations and Northeastern Fund. She started in April.

“I take pride in being a very hard worker,” Pio-Jacques said. “It’s a trait I learned as a student-athlete.

“I started (basketball) my freshman year of college and attribute that to my work ethic and the fact that I just go out there and I see what I have to do to get the job done. That’s how I am still in my work today.”