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AP photo by Mark Humphrey / Candice Storey Lee answers questions during a news conference on Feb. 5 in Nashville after being named interim AD at Vanderbilt. The SEC school removed the interim label Wednesday.

NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt has removed the interim title for Candice Storey Lee, making her the first woman to become an athletic director in the Southeastern Conference.

With Vanderbilt's announcement Wednesday, Lee now is among only five women and is just the second black woman in charge of a Power Five conference athletic program. Daniel Diermeier, who takes over as Vanderbilt's chancellor on July 1, said Lee is the "living embodiment" of the university's values and aspirations.

"Candice is perfectly positioned to lead our athletics program to new heights of success on and off the field of play," Diermeier said in a release announcing the move. "She has the drive, creativity and perseverance to help elevate our student-athletes and the entire Vanderbilt Athletics program."

The 41-year-old Lee, a former Commodores basketball captain, was named interim athletic director Feb. 4 after Malcolm Turner, a former NBA G League president, resigned after one year on the job in Nashville. That made Lee the first woman to run athletics at Vanderbilt, and she said she was incredibly honored and could not be in this position without the support of the school's leadership, coaches, staff and fans.

"There are challenges ahead and much uncertainty about what college athletics can and should look like during a pandemic, but I firmly believe that anything is possible if we all work together," Lee said in the release.

Tennessee's Joan Cronan was the only other woman to have been at least an interim AD at an SEC school, the conference said. She was the interim AD in Knoxville for approximately three months in 2011. Cronan and Bev Lewis at Arkansas both were in charge of women's departments when both schools had separate athletic departments.

Lee joins Carla Williams at Virginia as the only black women who are athletic directors at Power Five schools, with Sandy Barbour at Penn State, Jennifer Cohen at Washington and Heather Lyke at Pittsburgh the other women who are ADs at such programs.

Susan R. Wente, Vanderbilt's interim chancellor and provost, said in the release: "We will look back and see this decision as a major turning point for Vanderbilt athletics and our entire university."

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