MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – One of the longest-serving employees in WVU athletics history has died.
Morgantown native Eleanor Negri Lamb worked an amazing 55 years in collegiate athletics during an impressive career that spanned from 1958-2013. Born Oct. 10, 1921 in Morgantown, Negri Lamb graduated from WVU in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Her professional career began in radio, first at WAJR in Morgantown and then at WPDX in Clarksburg as its director of continuity and women’s programs.
Then, on June 9, 1958, she was hired to become WVU director of athletics Red Brown’s personal secretary, beginning one of the longest-serving tenures in department history. In 1965, she was promoted to Brown’s assistant and then to assistant athletic director on July 1, 1971. During those years, her primary duties dealt with the department’s finances and the arrangement of all athletic events, working closely with auditors in the state business office.
Lamb was also tasked with an ambassador role for athletics, arranging hospitality functions and events for visiting athletic officials for many years while developing many close friendships from across the country.
She was heavily involved in the planning for the department’s state centennial celebration in 1963 and worked closely with Brown and men’s basketball coach Bucky Waters on the construction of the WVU Coliseum, which opened in 1971. Lamb played a role in the department’s decision to install the Astroturf playing surface at old Mountaineer Field in 1969 as well.
A year before Title IX became a federal law, she was named assistant athletic director in 1971 and is generally considered to be the department’s first senior female administrator, although she did not hold that title and athletics didn’t name a senior woman administrator until 1993 when women’s basketball coach Kittie Blakemore transitioned into that role. As the department’s business manager, it was Lamb’s responsibility to provide input on the funding for the creation of the women’s sports program at WVU in 1973.
Lamb began scaling back some of her duties in 1978, but continued to work closely with athletics directors Leland Byrd, Dick Martin, Fred Schaus, Ed Pastilong and Oliver Luck well into the 2000s. She spent some of those years volunteering her time on the WVU Sports Hall of Fame selection committee and also served as the department’s sexual harassment liaison, working diligently to develop university policies in that area.
“Eleanor was a wonderful role model to the staff and a great resource to all of us for the many years that she worked in athletics,” said Pastilong. “I can remember, as an athlete in the 1960s, the first person you met was Eleanor Lamb because she was the one who gave us our $15 scholarship checks each month. Everything important went across her desk.
“Then, when I became athletic director, her office was right next to mine and that was always comforting to know because I valued her opinion and trusted her judgement. Eleanor was a great lady, a great friend to me and Mona, and we pass along our condolences to her family.”
Lamb officially retired on March 31, 2013 at the age of 92 and was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
She died on Sunday, May 29, at Morgantown’s Stonerise Healthcare Transitional Care facility at the age of 100.
In addition to her parents, Bartolo and Edelina Alfieri Negri, she was preceded in death by her sister, Connie Negri. Eleanor is survived by her son, C.P. Negri, and her grandson, Kazuki Negri.