LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

UW-La Crosse Director of Athletics Josh Whitman is leaving the university to be the next director of athletics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Whitman has been the athletic director at UW-L for the last four years. He will remain at the university through July and will begin his new position at Washington University on August 1.

“For the past four years Josh has provided outstanding leadership to our Eagle Athletic Programs, and we're not eager to see him leave us,” UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow wrote in an email to students and staff late Wednesday morning. “But Washington University is one of the nation's premiere institutions of higher education and Josh has a wonderful opportunity there to move into an exciting new phase of his career.”

Whitman released the following statement:

“It has been my distinct privilege to serve these last four years as the Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.  From my very first day on campus, I have been struck by the kindness and generosity the people with whom I have come into contact.  I have lived all over the United States, and I have never found a more welcoming community of people than we have here in La Crosse.  We talk often about the natural beauty of our region, and there is no denying that it is one of the most picturesque areas in the Midwest, but it is the people here who make it truly beautiful.

There are so many people who have touched my life during my tenure.  I could never name them all individually, but a few people deserve special mention.  First, I would like to thank Chancellor Joe Gow and Vice Chancellor Paula Knudson for having the confidence four years ago to hire me, a 32-year-old East Coast lawyer, for such an important role on our campus and in our broader community.  I hope it has been a gamble that you feel has paid dividends.  Your leadership is unparalleled.  I would next like to thank our program's many donors and corporate partners.  Thank you for seeing what a tremendous asset the UW-L athletic program is to La Crosse and the surrounding areas; I hope you are as excited as I am about the upward trajectory that your generosity has launched, and I encourage you to remain engaged with our mission.  We have made too much progress to stop.  Next, I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to our nearly 600 student-athletes.  You are an inspiration.  Your humility, work ethic, focus, and heart lifted my spirits on even the most trying of days.  We laid many challenges in front of you, but you always answered the bell.  You are my heroes.  Lastly, I would like to recognize our athletic program's talented and selfless group of coaches and staff members.  I have such undying respect and affection for each and every one of you.  For the last four years, you have been my family, and I hope that connection will survive the new distance that will be between us.  A simple "thank you" will never be sufficient.  WE.  US.  OURS.

Here in La Crosse, we are fortunate to be home to one of the nation's leading Division III athletic programs.  Our student-athletes embody our mission statement: "Building Champions.  In Sport.  In School.  In Life."  Athletically, they compete with the best in the country; our 63 national championships are among the most in the nation.  Academically, 11 times in the last 12 years, UW-L's student-athletes have outperformed the general student body in the classroom.  And socially, each of UW-L's 19 varsity sport programs contributes more than 200 hours annually to serving the La Crosse community.  I hope the good work of our program is more widely known and appreciated now than when I arrived.  But for those people who have not yet learned the secret at the corner of East Avenue and Pine Street on the university's campus, I hope you will take the time to discover UW-L Athletics.  If you are lucky, the people in that program will change your life.  They have certainly changed mine.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who have shared in this leg of my journey.”