Student-athletes honored at 'The Nittanys' for academic, community achievements

April 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For the 32nd consecutive year, the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) recognized teams and individuals for academic achievement as Penn State student-athletes hosted “The Nittanys.”

More than 40 Penn State student-athletes and several teams were recognized for their academic, athletic and community engagement achievements during the past year in an awards-style format that included a reception, walking the blue carpet, photos and video.

The celebration of comprehensive excellence was held Monday night, April 15, on the main floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as the student-athletes, coaches and staff gathered on a rare open date in the Penn State competition calendar.

Sponsored by Penn State Student-Athlete Welfare & Development, the event featured the presentation of several longstanding awards from the Academic Achievement Awards Banquet that was coordinated by the Morgan Academic Center for nearly 30 years, as well as some more recently established honors.

The Nittanys’ theme was SAAB’s 2018-19 theme, “We Can, We Will, We Are,” and the festivities were hosted by Chris Funkey (men’s hockey) and Christi Vetter (women’s hockey).

Women’s cross-country earns Highest Team GPA Award

Lois Morgan presented the women's cross-country team with the Milton K. Morgan, Jr. Highest Team GPA Award for all 31 sports. Coached by John Gondak, women’s cross-country won the honor for the fifth time overall (1991, 1992 (co), 2008, 2013).

A school record-tying 26 teams earned a 3.0 grade-point average or higher during the 2018 fall semester, and the combined average GPA also was a Penn State record-tying 3.15 among all 31 teams last semester.

Presented for the second time, the Varsity “S” Club Most Improved Team GPA awards were presented to the women’s gymnastics and men’s volleyball teams.

Record-tying 90 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate

Penn State student-athletes own an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 90 percent, which ties the school record, including eight teams that have a 100 percent graduation rate. During the 2018 fall semester, 518 Nittany Lion students earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average, with 239 earning Dean’s List honors for having a 3.5 GPA. The totals rank No. 2 and 3, respectively, in school history.

During the past four years, Nittany Lion students have won 22 conference championships (19 Big Ten) and five NCAA championships, as well as 40 individual Big Ten titles and 23 individual NCAA crowns.

Hamilton and Johnson receive Nittany Lion Club's True Grit Award

The Nittany Lion Club annually presents the True Grit Award to two student-athletes for overcoming adversities while continuing to succeed in the classroom and on the athletic field during their careers.  Becca Hamilton (women’s soccer) and Jan Johnson (football) were recognized as the recipients for the injuries and challenges they have overcome during their careers.

The SAAB Above and Beyond Awards (Mr. and Mrs. Penn State) were presented to the male and female student-athletes who have a positive attitude and live and breathe everything Penn State. The female co-recipients were Kelsey Crow (women’s hockey) and Madison Shaffer (softball), and Charlie Shuman (football) was the male honoree for the second consecutive year.

The Phoenix Award was presented for the fourth time to a student-athlete that had a challenging start academically, but is excelling in the classroom. The recipient was Jonathan Holland (football), who is scheduled to begin work on a master’s degree later this year.

Myers and Kearns earn THON Awards

Two Penn State Dance Marathon (THON) Awards were presented. Abby Myers (field hockey) was recognized for raising nearly $23,000 for the Four Diamonds Fund in 2018-19. Tess Kearns (women’s track and field) received SAAB’s THON Spirit Award, having raised more than $210,000 for THON over the past four years. She has been the chair of SAAB’s THON Committee the past three years.

Kearns and Myers danced for the 46 hours in THON this past February. The efforts of Myers, Kearns and other student-athletes helped SAAB raise a record $70,396.25 for THON this year.

The Nittany Lions’ Ernest B. McCoy Award winners also were honored — Jason Nolf (wrestling) and Emily Ogle (women’s soccer). The McCoy Award has been presented annually since 1971 to one senior female and one senior male student-athlete who have combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.

Presented for the second time, the Behind the Scenes Heroes Award is given to recognize individuals for everything they do that goes unnoticed by most. The honorees were Scott Ogden (equipment) Andra Thomas (athletic training).

The servant hearts of the Nittany Lions’ also were recognized. Penn State student-athletes regularly interact with more than 40 different charitable organizations, participating in community engagement events, with all teams having a role in THON.

At the end of the event, all the senior student-athletes took the stage to sing the Penn State Alma Mater.

Also presented for the fourth time was the Nittany All-Academic Team, given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average on each team. The recipients were:

Nittany All-Academic Team (individual highest cumulative GPA on each team)

Baseball: Blake Hodgens*

Men’s Basketball:  Deivis Zemgulis*

Women’s Basketball:  Sarah McMurtry*

Men’s Cross-Country: Andrew Sell

Women’s Cross-Country: Tess Kearns

Men’s Fencing: Gavin Turner*

Women’s Fencing: Jade Rowland

Field Hockey: Lisa Winters*

Football: Blake Gillikin (4.0 GPA)

Men’s Golf: Ryan Davis

Women’s Golf: Kamerine Taylor*

Men’s Gymnastics: Noah Roberson** (4.0 GPA)

Women’s Gymnastics: Kristen Politz

Men’s Hockey: Chase Berger*

Women’s Hockey: Kelsey Crow*

Men’s Lacrosse: Kevin Hill*

Women’s Lacrosse: Delaney Muldoon

Men’s Soccer: Austin Maloney

Women’s Soccer: Kerry Abello (4.0 GPA)

Softball: Delaney Elling

Men’s Swimming & Diving: Nathaniel Bledsoe*

Women’s Swimming & Diving: Siena Salvaggio (4.0 GPA)

Men’s Tennis: Constant De La Bassetiere*

Women’s Tennis: Shannon Hanley

Men’s Track & Field: Michael Biddle

Women’s Track & Field: Lauren Costa

Men’s Volleyball: Nathan Smith

Women’s Volleyball: Bryanna Weiskircher*

Wrestling: Dominic Giannengeli

*Repeat recipient from 2018

** Repeat recipient from 2017 and 2018

Penn State among nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs

Under the leadership of Vice President of Athletics Sandy Barbour, Penn State has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, featuring 800 student-athletes across 31 varsity programs (16 men’s, 15 women’s).

Nittany Lion students have posted an NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 90 percent the past two years, which ties Penn State’s all-time high. Eight teams earned a 100 percent graduation rate in the 2018 NCAA Graduation Rates Report. The Nittany Lions rank No. 4 among all Division I schools with 204 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time, including women’s soccer student-athletes Emily Ogle and Kerry Abello and football student-athlete Blake Gillikin during the fall semester.

Penn State’s 51 NCAA championships all-time (79 national championships overall) rank No. 5 among all NCAA Division I programs and are the highest total of any college or university east of the Mississippi River. Penn State’s 32 NCAA titles since 1992-93, including a fourth consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship, lead all Big Ten Conference institutions. The Nittany Lions have won 111 Big Ten championships or tournament titles since capturing their first crown in 1992-93, most recently men’s gymnastics on April 5.

Penn State is ranked No. 4 in the Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup standings entering the final five weeks of the regular season competition schedule. The Nittany Lions have won the NCAA Wrestling Championship (eighth in nine years) and Big Ten Conference titles in women’s soccer, wrestling (regular season and championship) and men’s gymnastics thus far in 2018-19.

Last Updated April 18, 2019