Seventy-one student-athletes receiving diplomas this weekend

University Park, Pa. — Seventy-one Penn State student-athletes are scheduled to graduate during Commencement exercises this weekend on the University Park campus.

Student-athletes from all 25 varsity sports (men's and women's track and field/cross country are combined) are among the 71 student-athletes that have been approved to graduate. In addition, 11 members of the cheerleading squad and seven members of the Lionettes dance teams are on the approved to graduate list.

Among the spring 2010 graduates are Megan Hodge, a four-time first team All-American, Sullivan Award finalist and the 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year in women's volleyball; Bridget Franek, a nine-time track and field All-American; Max Lipsitz, a two-time first team men's volleyball All-American, and first-team All-Big Ten tailback Evan Royster, who will be a fifth-year senior during the upcoming season.

Also graduating are 14 student-athletes whose teams have captured national championships during their Penn State careers, including Kelsey Ream (women's volleyball), Anastasia Ferdman (fencing), Will Price (men's volleyball) and Matt Greenfield (men's gymnastics).

Some of the other graduates include: Dan Vallimont, runner-up at the 2010 NCAA Wrestling Championships; Adam Highberger and Andrew Ott (Nittany Lion basketball); Nicole Arcidiacono and Meggan Quinn (Lady Lion basketball); Gina Bartolacci (field hockey); Ashley Griffith (softball); John Wanamaker (baseball) and Tyler McCandless (men's track and field).

Five members of the Nittany Lion football team will be graduating: Jesse Alfreno, Brent Carter, Tom Golarz, Cedric Jeffries and Royster. Alfreno is a pitcher on the Nittany Lion baseball team, which has won six of its last eight Big Ten games.

The men's lacrosse team has the most graduates this spring with seven, including Charley Henneghan, who earned first team All-CAA accolades. The football, women's lacrosse, women's soccer and men's track and field teams each have five graduates.

Penn State student-athletes, who have captured 23 Big Ten Championships during the past five years and eight NCAA titles the past four, consistently have been among the nation's most successful in earning their degrees. Among some of the recent academic accomplishments are:

• Penn State student-athletes earned a school record Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 89 percent for the second consecutive year, compared to a 79 percent average for all Division I-A institutions, according to NCAA data released last November. The 89 percent figure was second highest among Big Ten Conference institutions.

• According to the 2009 NCAA data, Penn State's four-year federal graduation rate average was 82 percent, again well above the national average of 63 percent, and second to Northwestern (88) among Big Ten schools.

• The 2009 NCAA data revealed that student-athletes from 23 of Penn State's 25 teams (track/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the national GSR average of 79 percent. Seven Penn State squads earned a Graduation Success Rate of 100 percent and 21 of 25 Nittany Lion teams earned a GSR higher than or equal to the national average for their respective sport.

• More than 400 Penn State student-athletes earned a grade point average of 3.0 or higher during the 2009 fall semester. The total represents 58 percent of the 714 young men and women who are members of the PSU varsity teams.

• A total of 253 Nittany Lion student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2008-09, tied for Penn State's second-highest total in the program's existence. Accounting for Fall and Winter sports only, 132 student-athletes have garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors for the 2009-10 academic year thus far.

• Five Nittany Lion student-athletes earned first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors last fall, after a Penn State record 11 selections during 2008-09. Honorees included women's volleyball Player of the Year Hodge, who was selected Academic All-American of the Year for her sport, football student-athletes Josh Hull, Andrew Pitz and Stefen Wisniewski and men's soccer standout Jason Yeisley.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010