Robert E. Esleeck is a former member of the business faculty at Salem College who is credited with securing Salem College Athletics’ admission into the NCAA as a Division III member institution. Esleeck, an accomplished Winston-Salem attorney, now retired, was considered critical in the process of Salem applying for and receiving NCAA membership in 2008. He conducted research and oversaw the institutional application process which has enabled Salem College students to compete on a national level. He also is credited for enhancement of Salem Academy and College’s athletic fields and facilities.
Shortly after coming to Salem as an executive in residence to teach law and finance courses in the business department, Salem Academy and College had the opportunity to purchase vacant property along Salem Avenue across from the then-existing athletic fields. Salem President Julianne Still Thrift asked Esleeck to complete the acquisition process. Soon after the acquisition, Salem decided to build state-of-the-art athletic fields, including a new soccer field and softball field, resulting in soccer and softball facilities superior to comparable facilities at larger preparatory schools and colleges.
As the new facilities at Salem were completed, the positive-trending data on college student-athlete enrollment, retention, academic achievement and post-graduation success supported the decision to expand and improve the athletic programs and for Salem to become an NCAA Division III institution.
Esleeck assumed the responsibility of initiating the application process with the NCAA for Salem’s admittance as a Division III program. He completed the research, initiated contact with the NCAA, spoke with comparable current Division III programs and developed the strategy for Salem’s application process. President Thrift authorized his attendance at NCAA meetings and training sessions and the designation as a faculty advisor representative. Esleeck’s tireless work for NCAA acceptance paved the way for what is now a highly successful Salem College Department of Athletics, with programs regularly participating in post-season play and conference tournament championships.