Highlanders News · Athletic Director Jeff Whalen to Retire After 2020-21 School Year

Dear Heathwood Families,

This afternoon, I write to let you know that Jeff Whalen – Heathwood Hall’s Athletic Director and Varsity Basketball Coach – plans to retire at the end of this school year (June 2021).

Jeff’s departure at the conclusion of this year leaves an enormous hole in the Athletic Department and the basketball program.  I have thoroughly enjoyed working directly with Jeff these last eight years as he is a man of endless energy, steadfast integrity, and loyalty to Heathwood.  Jeff is also an incredible coach and athletic administrator.

The job of an Athletic Director is never-ending, and Jeff attended to the myriad responsibilities (scheduling, hiring, coaching, budgeting, communication, and facilities upkeep) with remarkable attention to detail. Furthermore, he’s had an important and noteworthy presence in SCISA amongst Athletic Directors and coaches around the state.  There are many Friday nights when Jeff left the Heathwood campus around midnight and returned early in the morning for a Saturday athletic event. Being an AD at an independent school like Heathwood is both a difficult and rewarding experience, and Jeff performed masterfully.

Jeff and the Whalen family have been on the sidelines of Heathwood Hall athletic contests for more than two decades, and their impact on the Athletic program has been immense.  In his 22 seasons (1998 – present) leading the Highlanders’ boys’ varsity basketball team, Jeff accumulated a record of 339-235, including a SCISA State Championship in 2011 and a State Runner Up in 2010 and 2012.

Additionally, amongst the hundreds of basketball players who suited up for him, he placed a number on college teams:  Xan Stevenson  ‘02 (Emory), Corey Littlejohn ‘11(UNC-Asheville), Mac Whalen ‘10 (Berry College), Josh Caldwell ‘17 (Army), Isaiah Caldwell ‘20 (Army), Odist Harmon ‘06 (Presbyterian College), Trenton Flemming ‘14 (Johnson University), Matthew Lee ‘18 (Francis Marion University) & Cam Caraway ‘18 (Montreat College).

Jeff and Karen Whalen’s five boys – Jeffrey (JD) D.Whalen ’05,  Tyler P. Whalen ’07, Brett M. Whalen ’08, MacKenzie (Mac) D. Whalen ’10, and Morgan  J, Whalen ’10 – were multi-sport standouts in the 2000s, and Karen Whalen has supported Heathwood athletics as an official game scorer, ticket collector, fan, mother, wife, and loyal Highlander since Jeff Whalen arrived on campus.  More impressive is that she did it while raising five young men and working at SCANA (now Dominion).

The Athletic Director plays a vital and significant role at an independent school, and Jeff Whalen and the Athletic Department Staff manage a substantial program.  Over 85% of our Middle School and Upper School students participate on one or more of our 47 teams (24 Varsity, 16 JV, and 7 MS ) and our athletes compete in over 600 interscholastic contests annually.  What’s more, Heathwood’s athletic program keeps parents and alumni connected, provides opportunities for learning, and deepens our love for and pride in our school. It is going to be difficult to find another amazing colleague like Jeff Whalen. Please see his note to the community at the conclusion of this letter.

The Search Process

I have retained Southern Teachers to lead us through a national search process for our next Athletics Director.  They will visit campus on October 13th to meet with various stakeholders, and they will utilize that feedback to develop a position statement for the Athletic Director search process.  We will begin formally advertising the opening in late October, and semi-finalists will interview in either December or January, while finalists will interview in February.

I have also formed a search committee, which I will chair.  Members of the Advisory Committee include George Scouten  P ‘19, ‘22 & ‘28 (Upper School Head), Maria Madden P ‘31 & ‘33 (Middle School Head), Willis Ware   P ‘09 (Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Girls Cross Country & Track Coach), Suzanne Nagy ‘90, P ‘23 & ‘26, (Director of Enrollment Management), JuLayne Shiflett P ‘25 (School Athletic Trainer & PE Instructor), Danny Lewis P ‘21 (Head Football Coach), Brionna Zimmerman ‘05  P ‘33 (Girls Basketball Coach & Development Associate), Rip Blackstone (Mathematics Instructor and JV Football Coach),  WD Morris ’92, P ’22 & ’26 (Highlander Club Officer), Maria Genovese, P ‘22 & ‘26 (Highlander Club Officer), and Darnell Lewis P ‘22 (Parent).

I will be in touch with more information about the search, and I welcome your feedback or questions.



Jeff Whalen’s Letter to Head of School and the Heathwood Community

Dear Chris and Members of the Heathwood Community,

I have decided with the support of my family that is time for me to retire at the end of this school year from my position of Athletic Director and Basketball Coach at Heathwood Hall. I will leave with a heavy heart because the last 23 years have been some of the greatest in my life. Heathwood has afforded our family the chance for JD, Tyler, Brett, Mac, and Morgan to graduate as Highlanders and to help them be the successes that they are today. Heathwood has also allowed me to grow as a professional.

Making this decision has been a difficult one for me, but it is also a day of reflection and gratitude. Having the privilege of working as a teacher/coach has been a tremendous honor. During the last 43 years (25 overall at Heathwood), I have pursued success while trying to uphold the standards that my parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches instilled in me from a very early age. It has been an honor to represent my family, the athletes that I have coached, and the schools where I have worked. I knew in 6th grade that I wanted to teach and coach, and I have been lucky to have lived that dream.

I could not have done my job without the support of my wife Karen and our five boys. Karen has been there by my side for the last 35 years. She has been my number one fan even when I have come home tired and miserable. She has been there with the same smile and loving hug whether we won or lost. I also want to thank my five boys for their unending support. Having the privilege of coaching them in basketball let me spend quality time with them, but I also missed many things that they were involved in when they were younger, so it is now time to catch up on some of those things, and also time to spend more time with my family around the country.

To my teaching/coaching colleagues, the successes that we have accomplished have been because of the time and commitment that you have put in. I appreciate all that you do, and I know that there will be many more successes in the future. I could not have done my job without your unwavering support.
I also want to thank all of the parents of the young people that I have coached and taught for allowing me the privilege of working with your children. I have often said that I feel that I have won the lottery thousands of times because that is the feeling you get when you see a child succeed.

To all of the special people who have put so many hours into the Highlander Club, especially those who have served as presidents of the club- thank you!

The support of the Heathwood community has been a family affair, and for that I am extremely thankful. I am sure that I have made many mistakes over the years, but I did try to learn from those and hopefully that made me a better person.

I have and will always believe in Heathwood and what it stands for. I will be your biggest supporter as we move forward, and it is my hope that we will continue to cross paths.


Jeff Whalen

Jeff Whalen Biography
Jeff Whalen was born February 12, 1955 in Watertown, NY. Jeff was educated at Immaculate Heart Central, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball. His football team’s record during his sophomore through senior year included only one loss. The basketball team won Sectional Championships both his junior and senior years. Whalen received his BS in Physical Education at SUNY College Cortland, NY after attending Dean College in Franklin, Mass. While at Dean, Jeff played both football and basketball.

After college, Jeff both played and coached for the Watertown Red and Black, the oldest semi-pro football team in the United States.

From 1983-1985, Jeff was the Athletic Director at The McLean School in Potomac, Maryland, where he coached lacrosse while also coaching basketball at Northwood High School.

His coaching career led him back to his alma mater in 1985, where he was the Junior Varsity Basketball Coach, Varsity Football Coach, and Varsity Lacrosse Coach.

In 1987, Jeff accepted a teaching and coaching position at Heathwood Hall, where he was the Defensive Coordinator in Football and Head Women’s Basketball Coach.

Two years later, Jeff accepted a position at Cardinal Newman, where he served as Athletic Director, Head Football, Head Men’s Basketball, and Head Golf Coach. During his four-year tenure at Cardinal Newman, Whalen led the Cardinals to their only Football State Championship in school history. His basketball team also made the State Championship game during his tenure there, only to lose to Heathwood Hall.

After four years at Cardinal Newman, Jeff accepted a position at Metairie Park Country Day School in Metairie, Louisiana as their Director of Athletics, Head Men’s Basketball and Golf coach. During his time at Country Day, Jeff was able to assemble an outstanding staff of coaches who led programs to new heights. During this time, he also led the basketball team back to the state playoffs after a long drought. One of his players, Joe Pasternack, has gone on to coach at the collegiate level and is currently Head Men’s Coach at University California, Santa Barbara. As the golf coach, Jeff led his team to the Louisiana State Championship in 1994 and to State Runner-up in 1995. Seven of his golfers went on to play collegiate golf.

Jeff is an avid sports fan, loving his Syracuse Orangeman, New York Giants, New York Yankees, and Boston Celtics. He has been married to his wife Karen for 35 years. His five sons, JD ‘05, Tyler ‘07, Brett ‘08, MacKenzie ‘10, and Morgan ‘10, are all proud Heathwood alumni.