The journey toward the ultimate goal of earning a college degree will come to fruition this weekend for many of our student-athletes. This Saturday, 57 will graduate in a ceremony to be held in storied Memorial Stadium. I am looking forward to attending the graduation ceremony as well as the private student-athlete reception immediately following the school-wide ceremony, when our graduates will be joined by family members and friends to celebrate this momentous occasion.
More than 2,700 degrees will be awarded by the University this weekend, with graduate degrees conferred on Friday and baccalaureate degrees awarded on Saturday morning. It is believed to be the first time that a graduation ceremony will take place in Memorial Stadium since it was built in 1923. I’m told that in May of 1969, UNL’s commencement was scheduled for Memorial Stadium and President Richard Nixon was to deliver the keynote address to mark the centennial of the charter of the University of Nebraska. Unfortunately, President Nixon had to cancel and the ceremony was moved to Pershing Auditorium. I am looking forward to the procession in academic dress, the distinctive Pomp and Circumstance music, seeing our student-athletes turn the tassel from right to left, and hearing former U.S. Senator and Nebraska Governor Ben Nelson deliver the commencement address.
Among those receiving a Ph.D. on Friday will be former Husker student-athlete and current Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Brandon Rigoni. After walking on to our football program, Brandon lettered three years from 2004 to 2006, earned his undergraduate degree in 2006, his master’s degree in 2010, and will receive his Ph.D. from the UNL Neuroscience Program on Friday. Congratulations Brandon, we’re proud to have you as part of our team.
Nebraska Sweeps Wayne Duke Postgraduate Awards
Two of our student-athletes have been named the 2013 winners of the Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award. Congratulations to Nebraska natives Katie White of Broken Bow and Sean Fisher of Omaha, who were each awarded $10,000 scholarships for graduate studies as selected by the Indianapolis Big Ten Community Partnership. In the six-year history of this prestigious conference award, this is the first time that both winners have come from one institution. Wayne Duke served as the conference commissioner (1971-89) who led the charge for Big Ten schools to improve academic standards and graduation rates.
Katie, a cross country and track distance runner, has won multiple Academic All-Big Ten honors and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Awards. Katie will graduate Saturday with a 4.0 GPA in Nutrition Science and plans to use her postgraduate scholarship at UNMC to become a Physical Therapist.
Sean, a two-time Academic All-America linebacker, will graduate this weekend with a degree in Business Administration. He is one of 37 student-athletes who posted perfect 4.0 semester GPAs in the fall term and will graduate with an unblemished 4.0 cumulative GPA on Saturday. He will use his postgraduate scholarship to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor at The University of Chicago Medicine.
Student-Athletes of the Year Mary Weatherholt and Björn Barrefors
I sincerely believe that UNL offers the best support services to student-athletes in the country, and credit must go to our Academics, Life Skills, Compliance staffs and many others. Two student-athletes who learned early on the benefits of what we have to offer are Mary Weatherholt and Björn Barrefors. Recently, Mary and Björn were named Nebraska’s female and male Student-Athletes of the Year. They are not only outstanding students and elite athletes; they are captains of their respective teams, active on campus, and exemplary leaders in the community.
This week, Mary earned her second consecutive Big Ten Women’s Tennis Athlete of the Year Award and was a repeat unanimous selection for first-team All-Big Ten honors. She was undefeated in Big Ten singles and doubles at the No. 1 positions. Mary is currently ranked No. 11, the highest of any female tennis player in school history, and will compete in NCAA first-round action next week right here on campus. From Overland Park, Kansas, Mary also has a promising professional career ahead of her, but can always fall back on her degree in Business Administration, earned in May of 2012 at the completion of her junior season. Mary won the Student-Athlete of the Year Award with a glowing recommendation from Dr. Carlos Asarta, Associate Professor of Practice in Economics in the College of Business Administration. Dr. Asarta noted that Mary is intelligent, applied, involved, personable and a polite leader.
Björn, from Stockholm, Sweden, is the defending Big Ten decathlon champion and is on target to become the first four-time Academic All-American in Nebraska history. Björn will graduate Saturday with a degree in Computer Science. A six-time All-American, Björn has been a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) since 2010, serving as President in 2010-11. Dr. Ying Lu, Associate Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at UNL, taught Björn in two classes (Data Structures and Algorithms, and Distributed Operating Systems). Dr. Lu said Björn actively participated in class, has a unique perspective for different approaches and after expressing interest in research, applied and secured an award to work on a UCARE project that will focus on energy management of multiprocessor systems. Björn has been admitted to UNL’s graduate program in Computer Science and awarded a research assistant position.
Nebraska has established itself as an academic leader, leading the nation in NCAA Today’s Top Ten Award winners with 16; in Academic All-Americans with 302 (and counting!) and in National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Postgraduate Scholarships with 21. We are very proud of our student-athletes who are reaping the rewards of hard work, determination and planning.
Several Huskers earned their degrees a year before their athletic eligibility was completed. Among this year’s class are Jason Ankrah (Football, Child, Youth and Family Studies), Brett Grieb (Track and Field/Cross Country, Biological Sciences), Zach Hirsch (Baseball, Finance); Stanley Jean-Baptiste, (Football, Sociology), Tim Onwiler (Track and Field, Fisheries and Wildlife), Brent Qvale (Football, Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science), Jeremiah Sirles (Football, Management), and Taylor Shapland (Track and Field, Construction Management).
I look forward to following their continued success in their chosen professions and will let them know that they are always welcome to come home to this wonderful place called Nebraska. As Pulitzer-Prize winning, 20th-century Nebraska-native Willa Cather penned, "The end is nothing; the road is all."
Please click here to view a complete listing of our Class of 2013 Husker Graduates.
Until next time, stay positive and Go Huskers!
"Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again." - Willa Cather
One of America's greatest literary voices, Willa Cather, tells stories of immigrant farmers in Nebraska and opens the window into the lives of those who were a large part of American settlement and struggle. Willa died in 1947 and left a will forbidding the adaptation of her works to theater or film and prohibiting the publication of her personal letters. But after the death of her nephew and the will's final executor two years ago, those prohibitions expired and more than 500 of her letters are now being published. Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout are the co-editors of the new book, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather. Jewell, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, is the editor of the Willa Cather Archive. Cather's memory lives on. In fact, the UNL Libraries are home to a collection of hundreds of Cather letters that were donated to her alma mater in 2007. We had a month-long celebration of Willa Cather coinciding with the release of the book and this week in New York, hundreds of Nebraskans and Nebraskans-in-spirit gathered for a celebratory reading by Jewell of some of the letters in the new edition.
Our athletic department was pleased to learn that Dr. Carlos Asarta, Associate Professor of Practice in Economics in UNL’s College of Business Administration, won another Outstanding Educator of the Year Award from the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN). Dr. Asarta was a standout on our Husker swim team and served as president of SAAC in 2000-2001 before earning three degrees at UNL. We salute one of our own and wish Dr. Asarta continued success.
Former SAAC President Wins Alumni Achievement Award
One of 17 accomplished alumni, to be honored with an Alumni Achievement Award, former Husker student-athlete and 1995-96 SAAC President, Kristin Whitted Fasbender accepted her award at the annual Nebraska Alumni Awards Banquet on May 2 at the Nebraska Champions Club. The Associate Director of Championships and Alliances for the NCAA in Indianapolis and a former cross country standout, Kristin graduated with high distinction from UNL in 1997. A Broadcast Journalism major, she now serves as the lead administrator for NCAA Division I championships in women’s volleyball, men’s ice hockey and men’s tennis. Over her tenure at the NCAA, Kristin has worked with 13 different championships across three divisions. We welcome Kristin back to Lincoln along with her husband, Shawn, and their three children – Kaitlin, Megan and Will.
Congratulations to the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development (LPED), which won the 2013 Business Facilities Economic Development Excellence Award for national aggressiveness in pursuit of new job creation opportunities. Business Facilities, a national site selection publication, selected Lincoln as the winner for cities with populations between 200,000 and 500,000. Wendy Birdsall, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and LPED, views Lincoln as a city on the rise and we appreciate the Chamber’s commitment to economic development.
Congratulations to Tatum Edwards, who was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week and national pitcher of the week by CollegeSportsMadness.com. Edwards hurled a two-hit win in the series opener against a No. 9 Michigan team that came to Lincoln with a 22-game winning streak. Edwards came back Sunday to pick up another win with three scoreless innings of no-hit relief against the Big Ten defending champions. In addition, the junior right-hander from Murrieta, Calif., went 5-for-6 in the three-game series, including a double, a home run and three RBIs.
Kyle Kubat, a sophomore left-handed pitcher from Creighton Prep High School in Omaha, is 3-0 since returning to our rotation after missing the first 33 games of the season with a shoulder injury. His latest win, and his third in 13 days, came Sunday in Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Classic. Kubat pitched eight innings and gave up just four hits in our win over Rutgers. Welcome back Kyle!