By Ronald Hanaki
In celebration of National Student-Athlete Day, ESU honored its student-athletes with a ceremony inside Koehler Fieldhouse on April 21. The event was organized by Dr. Nancy Jo Greenawalt, ESU’s Academic Coordinator for Athletics.
National Student-Athlete Day was created 28 years ago by the NCAA. Its purpose is to celebrate the achievements of student-athletes in the classroom, in the community, and in their respective sports. The day also recognizes the school’s faculty and staff who have helped their student-athletes to achieve their academic and athletic goals.
In total, 39 of ESU’s faculty and staff were recognized for helping and supporting ESU’s student-athletes.
Last Tuesday’s ceremony honored the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll recipients, Academic All-America Award winners, team academic achievement award winners, and StudentAthlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) members. The winner of the “Winning Warrior” award was announced as well.
The event began with Greenawalt’s opening remarks. She was followed by ESU Director of Athletics Dr. Tom Gioglio and President Welsh.
Welsh said, “We are here to celebrate our student-athletes. It’s a challenge to balance academics and athletics, but some of you have 4.0’s and make it look so easy.”
Welsh was excited to say that there were 9 student-athletes who have a perfect 4.0 GPA. Welsh went on to quote author Carlos Castaneda, who said, “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
Welsh then said, “I consider all of you to be true Warriors.”
Welsh continued, “You have accepted the challenge to succeed on the court or on the field and in the classroom. You take everything as a challenge – in sports and your fields of study. Your commitment to excellence makes each of you outstanding role models. I talk about you every day – about your contributions to the college and the surrounding community. I applaud you for representing ESU on and off campus, and I thank you for continuing to be Warriors.”
After being commended by Greenawalt as the true embodiment of a student-athlete, senior volleyball player Abby Welch took the stage as guest speaker. Welch is a sport management major and minor in business management who served as the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) during 2014-2015.
Welch is a four-year letter winner in volleyball and has made the Dean’s List six times. She is a three-year member of SAAC and has been instrumental in guiding SAAC through its community service initiatives during the past year.
Welch said, “SAAC is a tremendous opportunity for all student-athletes to take an active role in the community. Overall, we have exceeded our 2013-2014 fundraising goal by almost $50,000. With the MakeA-Wish Foundation, more than 470 wishes have been granted through Division II.”
Welch continued, “As student-athletes, we have already gone above and beyond – whether or not you are like me and will graduate in a few weeks or you still have a few years to go.”
“We’ve all been handed the tools to succeed, and being a student-athlete is the most rewarding time of our lives. I encourage you all to embrace new challenges with confidence. Congratulations to our student-athletes,” said Welch.
There were 169 student-athletes named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll. Student-athletes must have a 3.25 GPA or higher to qualify for this honor.
Capital One Academic AllAmerica Award winners include Christina O’Connor from women’s track and field, Damien Boham and William Berry from men’s track and field, Shea Neal from women’s soccer, and Jon Schnaars and Bryan Thomson from football.
Team academic achievement awards went to the men’s and women’s athletic teams with the highest team GPA for the fall 2014 semester.
This year, the men’s cross country team won for the fifth time in fourteen years with an overall GPA of 3.193. The women’s tennis team won for the first time since the award’s inception with a 3.419 team GPA.
The “Winning Warrior” Award is given to the person showing an exceptional commitment to ESU’s athletic programs.
Before presenting the “Winning Warrior” Award, Greenawalt said, “There is no offseason for this Warrior. He has attended almost every ESU sports event. He knows every sports statistic and promotes ESU sports locally to national media outlets including the PSAC and the NCAA.”
Greenawalt continued, “He has gone above and beyond his job description to attract attention to our students and their outstanding athletic performances. Please join me in showing our appreciation for our ‘Winning Warrior,’ Sports Information Director Greg Knowlden.”
At the end, a video showing ESU’s student-athletes thanking the 39 special members of ESU’s faculty, staff, and coaches who have helped ESU’s student-athletes succeed was shown.
Greenawalt said, “Thank you for supporting our student-athletes and our athletic department.”
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