UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – The Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted the annual “The Nittanys” for the 35and consecutive year and returned to an in-person format for the first time in two years. The celebration of overall excellence took place Monday evening on the ground floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as student-athletes, coaches and staff gathered.
More than 40 Penn State student-athletes and multiple teams were recognized for their academic, athletic, and community involvement achievements in an award-like format.
Sponsored by Penn State Student-Athlete Welfare & Development, the event featured the presentation of several long-standing awards from the Academic Awards Banquet which has been coordinated by the Morgan Academic Center for nearly 30 years, as well as some more recent honors established.
The Nittanys’ theme was SAAB’s 2021-2022 theme, “Protect the Pride”, and the festivities were hosted by Sean Clifford (soccer) and Anna Camden (women‘s basketball).
Women’s soccer gets best team GPA; Volleyball and women’s soccer earn Varsity ‘S’ honor
The women’s soccer team received the Highest Team GPA award from Milton K. Morgan Jr. for their efforts during the 2020-21 college year. The women’s soccer team had the highest team GPA among 31 sports. Also honored for hard work in the classroom, Varsity ‘S’ Club Most Improved Team GPA awards were given to the women’s volleyball and soccer teams.
Ernest B. McCoy Award
The McCoy award is named after the longtime dean of Penn State’s College of Physical Education, who also served as the university’s athletic director. The award is given to a senior male and female student-athlete who has combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.
The Ernest B. McCoy Award winners were Jonnie Parker (women’s volleyball) and John Harrar (men’s basketball).
True Grit Award
The True Grit Award recognizes a male and female student-athlete whose determination and perseverance in overcoming severe athletic or even personal adversity is a testament to their formidable character and indomitable spirit. This award is sponsored by the Nittany Lion Club.
This year’s winners were Kourtney Chinnery (women’s gymnastics) and Cole Bartels (baseball).
Beyond Mr. and Mrs. Penn State
This award was created by SAAB to recognize the contributions of a male and female senior student-athlete who display the true spirit of “WE ARE” as evidenced by their contributions and inspirations to their respective teams, as well as their passion for all of Penn State. Recipients of this award are recognized for the following qualities: benevolence, encouragement, humility, honesty, humor, kindness, patience and school spirit. This year’s winners were Ally Schlegel (women’s soccer) and John Harrar (men’s basketball).
Behind the scenes heroes
This award was created by SAAB to recognize individuals who embody what it means to be selfless in service to others, with no expectation of recognition, but who are essential to the success of student-athletes here at Penn State. Morgan Academic Center associate director and academic advisor Joey Ianerio was this year’s recipient for his work with baseball, men’s basketball and women’s hockey.
The phoenix has always been a symbol of what it means to be reborn, to rise from the ashes and to shine in the eyes of all. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose determination and perseverance overcame some academically difficult initial challenges, to now shine with brilliance and confidence here at Penn State. The 2021-22 Phoenix Award recipient was Sadie Schumann of Women’s Swimming and Diving.
Big Ten Graduate Scholarship
Recipients of this award receive a $7,500 scholarship for graduate study. To be eligible for this award, a candidate must be in their final competitive season, have a GPA of 3.2 or higher, be a model example of leadership and integrity, recommended by two of their teachers, and plan to register for a graduate degree. program after graduation. The recipients of this year’s Big Ten Graduate Scholarships were Claire Swedberg from softball and Keegan Ness from men’s soccer.
THON Donation Challenge
This award created by SAAB is in recognition of the team that collected the highest total this year on behalf of THON. The team that collectively raised the most money for THON was women’s basketball.
Two additional prizes were awarded to two individuals who have made a major contribution to THON in 2021-22. Hannah Zemaitis (Field Hockey) was recognized as the student-athlete with the highest individual total on behalf of THON. Shelly Marget (women’s swimming and diving) received the THON Spirit Award. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose commitment to raising awareness and funding the search for a cure to end childhood cancer has been unmatched in their energy, effort, and passion for all things THON.
This award is given to one student-athlete from each team who has achieved their team’s highest cumulative grade point average, after 60 or more earned undergraduate hours at Penn State.
Nittany All-Academic Team-Individual Highest Cumulative GPA of Each Team
Baseball: Brenden Franks
Men’s Basketball: John Harrar
Women’s Basketball: Anna Camden
Men’s Cross Country: Payton Sewall
Women’s Cross Country: Makenna Krebs
Men’s fencing: Elias Cole
Women’s fencing: Catherine Cao
Field Hockey: Eleni Prodes*
Football: Justin Weller
Men’s Golf: James Meyers
Women’s Golf: Isha Dhruva
Men’s gymnastics: Michael Artlip
Women’s Gymnastics: Natalie Cross
Men’s Hockey: Oskar Autoo*
Female Hockey: Anna Promersberger*
Men’s Lacrosse: TJ Malone*
Women’s Lacrosse: Rachel Spilker
Men’s Soccer: Alex Stevenson
Women’s Soccer: Cori Dyke
Softball: Claire Swedberg*
Men’s Swimming and Diving: Lachlan Byrne
Women’s Swimming and Diving: Nikolette Nolte (tied)
Women’s Swimming and Diving: Marget Shelly (tied)
Men’s Tennis: Ismail Saadi
Women’s tennis: Gracey Hirsch*
Men’s athletics: Evan Dorenkamp
Women’s athletics: Victoria Vanriele
Men’s Volleyball: Gabe Hartke
Women’s Volleyball: Jonni Parker
Wrestling: Austin Hoopes*
* indicates repetitive member and 4.0 GPA
Penn State among the top athletic programs in the nation for overall excellence
Under Barbour’s leadership, Penn State has one of the most comprehensive and successful athletic programs in the nation, with 800 student-athletes in 31 varsity programs (16 men, 15 women). The Nittany Lions’ 31 programs are tied for the fourth-most institution-sponsored sports in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Nittany Lion students posted an NCAA graduation success rate (GSR) of 92%, a program record, in the most recent report. Ten teams earned a 100% graduation rate in the 2021 NCAA Graduation Rate Report. The Nittany Lions rank 4th among all Division I schools with 213 all-time CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
Penn State student-athletes have led the athletics department to 47 Big Ten championships and nine NCAA national championships since October 2013. Penn State is one of five schools to have won at least 10 NCAA championships since 2012 and obtained at least 90% diplomas. Success rate in the 2021 NCAA report (Stanford, Florida, USC, Virginia). The Nittany Lions rank fifth in the Learfield IMG College Manager’s Cup after the fall season.
Record NCAA degree completion rate
The NCAA’s 2021 Graduation Rate Report from Division I institutions across the country found that Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus achieved a successful graduation rate (GSR ) by 92% to tie the school’s all-time record of 92, which was previously set in the NCAA’s 2020 report. Nittany Lion students posted a 92% graduation rate compared to the 89% average for all Division I institutions for incoming students from 2011-12 through the 2014-15 academic year.
Penn State student-athletes have had graduation success rates in the range of 88-92% in each of the past 15 NCAA reports, rising from 88% in the 2015 report to a record 92% ratio in 2020 and 2021. Sixteen of the 27 Nittany Lions teams (men’s and women’s track and field/cross country teams combined) achieved a graduation pass rate equal to or greater than the National Division I GSR average for their respective sport. A total of 18 Penn State teams have a GSR of 90% or higher.