Miami HEAT Business Operations President Eric Woolworth ’80 Reflects on the Importance of Social Responsibility
New Canaan Country School’s 2020 Alumni Award winner Eric Woolworth ’80 spoke to Middle and Upper School students (Grades 5 - 9) about his path to the executive office of the Miami HEAT Group and discussed the importance of creating diverse, equitable and inclusive environments, professional organizations and communities during a virtual event on Oct. 30. (View the recording.)
“Eric responded to our students’ questions with wisdom and humor, tackling complicated themes such as the role of social responsibility within professional sports, head-on with confidence and conviction. His wisdom and experience really resonated with the students,” said Head of School Aaron Cooper.
Following graduation from Country School, Eric went on to attend The Taft School. He graduated cum laude from both Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center and then pursued a successful legal career in Washington, D.C. Eric joined the HEAT as General Counsel in 1995 and then steadily climbed the ranks of The HEAT Group. His business acumen and key role in the development of the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami led to his promotion to President, Business Operations in January of 2001.
“I took a risk,” explained Eric when asked by eighth grader Ifeanyi Ndokwu if he had dreamt of a career in professional basketball. “I left a profitable career in law, took a pay cut and moved to Miami. Sometimes you’ve got to go for it. It’s worked out for me. It was a dream to work in the sports world, although not necessarily in basketball.”
While attending NCCS, Eric had co-captained three varsity teams: soccer, hockey and baseball.
“I have always loved sports, but I still cannot dribble left-handed,” he confessed with a wry smile.
Ninth grader Waverly Walters, who will be attending the 2020 Student Diversity Leadership Conference in December, noted that The HEAT Group had won several awards and recognition for work in the diversity, equity and inclusion space and asked for the details surrounding the decision to make that a priority.
“When we decided that we wanted to make the HEAT the very best organization it could be, I told my staff that we needed to embrace the community around us,” explained Eric. “The people who lived in Miami needed to feel comfortable coming to games and events, but also to our business offices. In order for them to feel comfortable, they needed to see someone who looked like them. Over time, we became more diverse and then learned how to actively and intentionally get and harness the diverse experiences and world views of our employees, ultimately creating the successful multicultural organization we are today.”
The Alumni Award is presented each year to honor an alumna or alumnus who has had “the courage and confidence to make a positive contribution to the world.”
The 2020-21 Miami Heat season marks Eric’s 25th year with The HEAT Group and 20th at the helm of the organization as President, Business Operations. His primary responsibility consists of directing and overseeing all non-basketball aspects of the organization from Marketing and Community Affairs to Sales and Service, Human Resources, Merchandising, Finance, Event and Arena Operations, and more.
Under his guidance, The HEAT was the inaugural winner of the NBA’s 2018 Inclusion Leadership Award for the franchise’s lengthy history and ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.
For more information about the school’s Alumni Award, please visit countryschool.net/alumni.
Previous Alumni Award recipients include:
2019: Allison Kessler Vear ’00 2018: Topsy Post ’66 2017: Mo Vaughn ’82 2016: G. David Forney ’54 2015: Zach Iscol ’94 2014: Katherine Ward ’79 2013: Liz Barratt-Brown ’74 2012: Matt Heineman ’98 2011: Rick Ackerly ’60 2010: Edward Hoagland ’47 2009: Patricia Gates Lynch Ewell ’41 2008: Hardy Jones v58 2007: Elizabeth Spelke ’64 2006: L. Paul Bremer ’56 2005: Edmund L. Resor ’66 2004: William A. Shutkin ’80 2003: Emily Mead ’41 2002: Keith H. Brodie ’54 2001: Samuel Sachs ’50 2000: Elizabeth S. Crow ’61 1999: Hedrick Smith ’47 1998: Jonathan B. O’Brien ’53 and Joan Dominick O’Brien ’53 1997: Peter Goldmark ’55