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Courtney Osborne, a football player and Ethnic Studies major from Garland, Texas, and Mary Weatherholt, a tennis player and Business Administration major from Prairie Village, Kansas, addressed a record number of Nebraska student-athletes and their families and friends Saturday at Nebraska’s 2012 Student-Athlete Graduation Reception.
“Nebraska has helped me grow from a boy to a man,” Osborne told an overflow room on the third floor of Nebraska’s West Stadium while his twin brother, Steven, shot video. “I’ve learned that in order to be a man, I must do what I have to do because boys do what they want to do.”
Weatherholt recalled leaving Kansas when she was only 17 and how Lincoln has become her second home. “I fell in love with this place because the people who live here are so friendly and welcoming. I still love my friends back home, but my friends here are either current athletes, past athletes or married to athletes.”
Osborne drew laughs when he said his Nebraska experiences included learning how to shovel ice, how to see if a heifer is pregnant and why 25 minutes of sleep now equals an hour. “I want to thank the 3 F’s, and I don’t mean grades ... I mean family, friends and faculty, as well as the University of Nebraska.”
Life Skills Presents: Baby Alligators, Tigers, Bears
Weatherholt thanked her family, coaches, teammates, academic advisors, athletic director and a life skills department that enabled one of the coolest experiences she’s ever had – cradling a baby alligator in her arms when Mutual of Omaha brought in a small zoo for Animal Science majors and invited a small army of student-athletes who had been loyal community volunteers. Everyone in that Life Skills conference room enjoyed that rare experience. “Oh my god,” she said. “Some held a baby tiger and others a baby bear.”
Where else but Nebraska do experiences like that happen?
Tom Osborne warmed up the room with one of his favorite stories and reminded the graduates and their families that now that they’ve received their college diplomas, they’ll have “a leg up” in a competitive job market “because of all you’ve accomplished as a student-athlete here.”
Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s Associate Athletic Director for Life Skills, said the Athletic Department’s commitment to student-athletes does not end with their diplomas. “Our ongoing commitment is what separates us and makes Nebraska special,” he said. “As you encounter career challenges, rest assured we are eager and willing to help you, whether it’s finding a job, updating your resume, writing a letter of recommendation, providing career counseling, finding graduate school assistance or evaluating job offers. Whatever your needs might be, you can count on the Nebraska Athletic Department, and remember, as a Nebraska alum, you have free access to careerathletes.com and Husker Hire Link – two excellent resources for you to use as you prepare for the future."
Dennis Leblanc, Nebraska’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics, praised the graduates and pointed out that Saturday’s reception was the largest post-graduation crowd he’d seen in more than a quarter century. Leblanc said the record 82 NU spring graduates represented all 23 varsity sports, 16 states, 4 countries and 35 different majors. He said the class had helped Nebraska increase its exhausted graduation rate from 93 to 96 percent and issued a challenge for math majors "to figure out why the Big 12 Conference has only 10 member schools while the Big Ten Conference has 12.”
All Nebraska student-athlete graduates had their pictures taken with Tom Osborne. Courtney Osborne made his photo perhaps the most memorable, putting his right arm around NU’s athletic director and hugging him tightly for the camera. Osborne also had to look up when he handed 6-foot-4 Jessica Periago, a basketball player from Toulon, France, her athletic department gift. She was wearing heels.
Athletics is an International Experience at NU
Weatherholt mentioned how fun and memorable it was to have German, Polish, Slavakian and Swedish teammates who are now friends. Knowing how much harder college was than she thought it was going to be and how homesick she got in her first couple months as a 17-year-old freshman, “I can’t imagine how tough it would be for athletes to leave their families clear across the world,” she said.
Interestingly, to reinforce the sense of family that Weatherholt developed in Lincoln, Imke Reimers, a native of Germany who was a senior at Nebraska when Weatherholt was just a freshman, was sitting at the family table. Now pursuing her doctorate degree in Economics at the University of Minnesota, Reimers drove from Minneapolis to support her former teammate. Similarly, former Nebraska Athletic Department employee Guy Rozier, the Chief Advancement Officer for Athletics Institute Advancement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., returned to Lincoln with wife Edie. They sat next to the Osborne twins and their family at Saturday’s graduation reception.
Courtney Osborne ended his talk by sharing one of his favorite quotes: “Aim for the moon,” he told his fellow Husker grads, “because if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars" and Weatherholt encouraged her fellow grads to volunteer their time whenever possible. “I’ve learned you take time to do whatever it takes,” she said before ending with: “I’ve also learned that life is short, so we should all eat our dessert first.”
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