More than 60 Nittany Lions among first Big Ten Distinguished Scholars

University Park, Pa. -- With the 2008-09 academic year concluded, the Big Ten Conference has recognized a total of 498 student-athletes who have been selected as the inaugural recipients of the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award. The list recognizes student-athletes who have earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year.

A total of 62 Penn State student-athletes were selected for the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award, the second-highest total among all conference institutions. Twenty-three sports were represented by Nittany Lion honorees, led by women's track and field/cross country (10), football (7), men's lacrosse and women's swimming and diving (5) and field hockey, women's golf, women's gymnastics and women's soccer (4).

Six of Penn State's Distinguished Scholar Award recipients earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average during the 2008-09 academic year: Gina Bartolacci (field hockey, finance, Washington Cross), Charles Cimet (fencing, aerospace engineering, East Setauket, N.Y.), Mike Deese (baseball, kinesiology, Roswell, Ga.), Ashley Griffith (softball, kinesiology, Mount Laurel, N.J.), James Pagana (men's track and field, pre-medicine, Selinsgrove) and Logan Wyman (men's gymnastics, liberal arts, Phoenix, Md.).

Pagana was the male recipient of Penn State's Ernest B. McCoy Award and the Big Ten Medal of Honor for 2008-09.

Zoe Bouchelle (women's soccer) was the female recipient of both honors.

Also among Penn State's Big Ten Distinguished Scholars are: All-American swimmer Kelly Nelson (kinesiology, West Chester), All-American gymnast Brandi Personett (nursing, Liberty, Mo.), Emma Schmelzer (anthropology, Bloomington, Ill.), the Co-Field Athlete of the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships, All-American wrestler Jake Strayer (kinesiology, South Fork) and Lady Lion basketball's Janessa Wolf (education, Park Rapids, Minn.).

Among the 2008-09 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars are three members of the Nittany Lion football team that earned 2008 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America accolades: Josh Hull (environmental systems engineering, Millheim) Andrew Pitz (journalism, Bettendorf, Iowa) and Stefen Wisniewski (education, Bridgeville). All-Big Ten punter Jeremy Boone (elementary and kindergarten education, Mechanicsburg) and record-setting placekicker Kevin Kelly (kinesiology, Langhorne) also were honored.

In February 2008, Big Ten Faculty Representatives established a new conference academic recognition to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. Similar to the Academic All-Big Ten honor, Distinguished Scholar Award recipients must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution. However, the new award encompasses only student-athletes with a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school. The Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for their academic career.

A complete list of Penn State's 2008-09 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award winners is available here. Get Acrobat Reader

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Last Updated November 18, 2010