By Kristen Leigh Porter
DeLaine Emmert, wife of incoming NCAA President Mark Emmert, could not have known what life had in store when her future husband took her out for her 16th birthday.
After 39 years, the high school sweethearts still make a pretty good team. DeLaine has been an ever-present force as her husband held leadership roles in higher education, including stints as president at the University of Washington, chancellor at Louisiana State University and chief operating and academic officer at the University of Connecticut.
“We have had a record of 31 nights out in a row before,” she said. “It’s high energy.”
The couple won’t likely slow down anytime soon. On Tuesday, her husband starts his new job as president of the Indianapolis-based membership organization.
“Mark, when he was just growing up, wanted to be a race car driver, so he’s moving into the right area,” DeLaine said. “He’s pretty excited about that. He’s pretty savvy about cars.”
Question: How would you describe your husband?
Answer: “He’s truly a renaissance man. He’s highly intelligent but he loves the arts. He loves athletics. He’s very much a family person but he’s an academic. He’s just so broad-based. He loves fly-fishing. He loves the outdoors, but yet he can talk to a diesel mechanic about car engines and he can talk to a physicist. There are not many people who have that ability. And he would make everyone feel relaxed.”
Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: “I’m very loyal to my friends and family. I’m determined. I’m very family-oriented. I’m playful. And I’m a very curious person. I love learning about people and about places…I’m never bored, that’s for sure.”
Q: When you get a moment to sit down as a couple, do you watch sports or do you have a favorite television program?
A: “We love movies, so if we do get a moment we will usually go to a movie theater or we will rent one at home. Probably the only TV show we watch is really the news, like the ‘Today’ show in the morning I generally watch with Matt Lauer, one of those. We just don’t have time to watch TV. But our relaxation is movies and then of course we’ll watch sports, too. Mark uses that as an excuse, that’s his job now.” (Laughs)
Q: If your husband could trade places for a day with any leading man from a movie, who would it be?
A: “Is this from my perspective or from his? (Laughs again) It would be any of the James Bonds, and I would love to have him be Daniel Craig for a day. It’s fast cars, gorgeous girls, intelligence, it’s challenging. And he loves race cars, so I think James Bond would be ideal.”
Q: Due to your husband’s career, you’ve moved all over the country. What was special about each spot?
A: “What I found fascinating is…we’ve lived in every region of the country, and there are really geographical personalities. So you find Southern states tend to reflect warmth and compassion and friendliness. Western states tend to be more curiosity and intellectually driven and creative. Look at Seattle and how many businesses are created here: Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft of course, Weyerhaeuser. A huge number for its population of Fortune 500s. And then the Plains states reflect self-discipline. I think they have this responsibility and there’s a huge amount of warmth there.
“I think when you move and you live in those areas, it’s really wonderful because you take a little part of that and assimilate it into yourself.”
Q: Do you and your husband have the same taste in music?
A: “We both love classical and Beethoven. I love relaxing music, too, Vivaldi and George Winston, some things like that. We both enjoy jazz. I tend to like country a little bit more than Mark. He enjoys more jazz, I enjoy more country. My theme song is Shania Twain’s ‘Any Man of Mine.’ Have you ever listened to the words? I love it, I think it’s so funny…
“He really knows music and he keeps up on the latest. He’ll make CDs for friends of ours because he always gets the latest artists and so forth because of the kids. He wants to stay up on the latest, and the kids help him. So he’ll say, ‘Ok, what’s happening now, tell me,’ so they’ll give him the names of certain artists and he’ll look ’em up and find ’em. I’m always getting bills from iTunes.”
Q: Do you share your husband’s love of art? What kind of paintings hang in your house and in his office?
A: “We tend to be probably pretty traditionalist, but we love impressionist type of art. The greats, Degas. I also love O’Keeffe. We also love Native American art. We are building a house on Whidbey Island in the Northwest, just south of the San Juan Islands. It’ll be finished in November. We have purchased Native American art to go in there.”
Q: How do you view your new role as “first lady” of the NCAA?
A: “Mark has the big picture and he’s so amazing. That’s one of his greatest strengths is seeing the big picture and where we need to go and I think that’s what great leaders have to have. But for me, I can then come in with smaller niches that enhance student life or student performance. I can’t be specific yet because I don’t know. But I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of that. Our job is to help the universities serve students and that’s what’s exciting to us.”