When Katlyn Putney was racking up nine varsity letters at St. Thomas More High School in the late 2000s, she had an inkling she would remain involved in the world of athletics.
She just thought she would be covering the games, as opposed to organizing them.
Putney, a 2010 STM grad who became the athletic director at her alma mater Sept. 1, earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I wanted to be a sports journalist when I applied for college because of my love for sports,” Putney said. “Throughout my courses in UW-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, I discovered that I really enjoyed strategic communication, so the idea of working in athletics took a back seat.”
After graduating from college, she returned to STM as an intern in January 2015. In August of that year, she joined the full-time staff at the high school as marketing coordinator, and she has managed volunteers since 2017. She has also coached girls basketball and soccer since returning to the school and became the assistant athletic director in June 2021.
“When I became the assistant athletic director, I started thinking more about what my long-term goals were for myself at STM, and being the athletic director was definitely one of them,” Putney said.
She replaces Brian Killoran, who is leaving St. Thomas More to pursue other opportunities in teaching.
“Throughout her time at St. Thomas More, Katlyn has consistently demonstrated her commitment and dedication to our students, both in her athletics and marketing roles,” St. Thomas More President John Hoch said. “I am confident that under her leadership, Cavalier athletes will continue their success competitively, while (she provides) our student-athletes with personal and professional skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
As the high school on Milwaukee’s south side has become a second home for Putney since shortly after she entered her teens, in addition to athletics, St. Thomas More has given her the opportunity to grow more deeply in her faith.
“My best church memories come from the pilgrimage to Italy I went on in high school, where we walked in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi and went to the most beautiful churches and cathedrals every day,” Putney said. “We prayed together multiple times a day and really reflected on our relationship with God, ourselves and each other.”
Her faith journey was enhanced by her participation in athletics, including volleyball, basketball and soccer. As a high school student, she won the school’s Norb Wishowski Award, which recognizes student-athletes who excel in the areas of Christian discipleship, character, leadership, academic success, service and athletic ability.
“I don’t have a ton of specific memories of actually playing sports, but every time I think about my athletic career the best moments were always when I was with my teammates,” Putney said. “There were so many girls that I maybe wouldn’t have gotten close to if it weren’t for athletics but because we were on the same team we became really good friends. Team dinners, bus rides, even conditioning sessions, were always fun because of the people I was surrounded by. As a player, we prayed before every game. Leaving high school and not being able to play organized sports as much made me realize that being able to compete in an activity you love truly is a blessing.”
While in college, Putney was on the Badgers’ sailing team, an activity she still competes in as an adult.
“I started sailing when I was 8 because it was a family hobby, and I really started getting into it when I was about 13,” Putney said. “The other kids in lessons and some really cool coaches made it an activity that I loved spending my summers doing. Throughout college, it was my main social network and taught me lessons in discipline, critical thinking and leadership. Now, it’s definitely a lifetime sport for me, and I especially love it because it’s an activity that I get to do with my mom and some of our really close family friends.”
Putney’s other hobby is pretty unique, as well: she plays bagpipes in the Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band. She played piano as a child and added the saxophone in fifth grade, noting that musical instruments came pretty naturally to her.
“When I started working full time in fall 2015, I wanted to learn a new instrument as a hobby, and I always thought bagpipes were really cool,” Putney said. “Little did I know that it’s one of the hardest instruments to learn, and I’ve spent the better part of the last eight years working to become passable at it. The band that I joined is really great for teaching beginners and getting them competition ready (even in my hobbies, I’ve found a way to be competitive), and I’ve had the best time getting to know my bandmates and performing with them.”
Now, almost two decades after she first arrived at St. Thomas More, Putney’s “home away from home” has developed a family feel for her.
“I had an incredible time in high school,” Putney said. “With sports and clubs playing a huge part of my life, it definitely felt like a second home to me in terms of where I spent my time. It also felt like a family back when I was in high school, and when an internship opened up in the communications department, I was thrilled to apply for it. It was very cool that when I came in for my interview, there were teachers (whom) I had five years earlier who still remembered me and were excited to see me. Accepting that internship and staying for this long really boils down to this place being my home and all of the kids, faculty and staff being family to me.”