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SASS Academic Excellence Gala Celebrates MSU Student-Athletes

College Football Hall of Fame quaterback Archie Manning was the keynote speaker at the annual gala.

April 15, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State's Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) hosted the 17th annual Spartan Academic Excellence Gala on Monday evening at the Breslin Center. The event recognized the academic success of Spartan student-athletes during the 2013-14 academic year.

Spartan Academic Excellence Gala Photo Gallery | Video Hightlights

Student-athletes with at least a sophomore academic standing and a 3.0 or better cumulative GPA were honored, as well as a number of individual award winners who excelled not only in the classroom, but in other endeavors as well. In all, 289 student-athletes were honored on Monday evening, the second most in the gala’s history.

This year's distinguished keynote speaker was legendary quarterback Archie Manning. A native of Drew, Mississippi, Manning had an All-American career at the University of Mississippi, for which he was inducted to the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame. While playing professionally for the New Orleans Saints, Manning received various outreach awards including the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award and the Spirit of Good Sports Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters association.

For the fourth-straight year, the Academic Gala was grand sponsored by Dr. Bruce and Linda Cohen.

A long-standing tradition and highlight of the Gala is the musical entertainment provided by MSU's own student-athletes, highlighting the talents that stretch beyond competition and the classroom. This year, Michigan State football sophomores Riley Bullough and Evan Fischer joined forces to perform an original song titled, “Over.” Bullough plays guitar and is self-taught on the piano and drums, while Fisher was a Division All-State Choir Selection in high school and plays piano, trumpet and drums.

The President's Award, the night's most prestigious award, was presented to rower Monica LaPointe and Nickolas Gatt of the hockey team. The award recognizes the male and female graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA and who has exhausted their eligibility in the 2013-14 school year.

A two-time MSU distinguished scholar, LaPointe has achieved Dean’s List honors every semester and maintains a very impressive 3.942 GPA. The Grosse Ile, Mich., native is a three-year letter winner and helped lead her team to the 2012 National Rowing Championship. A member of the Honors College, La Pointe traveled to Costa Rica in the summer of 2013 to volunteer for sea turtle research and conservation.

Hockey's Nickolas Gatt accepts the 2014 President's Award.

Gatt, a two-year letter winner that appeared in 50 games, has been on the Dean’s List every semester at MSU. A native of Farmington Hills, Mich.,  Gatt holds a 3.755 GPA majoring in criminal justice. In addition to his success in the classroom, Gatt is also active in various community outreach events including Meals on Wheels, Miracle Field and Accessible Trick or Treating.

The men's tennis team and the women's golf program were honored with the Athletic Director's Awards for achieving the highest team cumulative GPA after the fall 2013 semester. Winning the award for the seventh-straight year and for a record 10th time, the men's tennis team, coached by Gene Orlando, holds a 3.403 team GPA. Meanwhile, the women’s golf team was recognized with the honor for the third-straight year after the team boasted a department-high cumulative GPA of 3.472 with all eligible members qualifying for the Gala for the second year in a row.

MSU Softball's Shanin Thomas was honored with the Harold & Raynor Shnider Office of the Provost Award.

Softball’s Shanin Thomas and football’s Josiah Price were presented with the Harold & Raynor Shnider Office of the Provost Awards. The honor is presented to a freshman or sophomore student-athlete who embodies the characteristics promoted by Student-Athlete Support Services, with emphasis on academic performance, community involvement and leadership ability. Thomas holds a 3.681 GPA as a journalism major, and is the starting third baseman after appearing in 33 games as a freshman. She is the softball team’s representative on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has volunteered at several events such as the Student-Athlete Food Drive, Friends of Jaclyn and March is Reading Month. Price, a sophomore majoring in hospitality business, owns a 3.465 GPA. The 2013 Freshman All-Big Ten team honorable mention is the football representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and volunteers at the MSU Safe Place Run, Heartwood Elementary School Spirit Day and The Great Dairy Adventure.

Track & field redshirt junior and two-time Big Ten Champion Antonio James was the recipient of the Multicultural Award, presented to the student-athlete who promotes inclusion as well as exhibits strong leadership in the areas of community service and diversity. James owns the MSU records in the shot put, discus hammer and weight throw and is a three time USTFCCCA All-American. He is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has been instrumental in helping upgrade the implements of the indoor/outdoor track & field facilities. The sociology major was also selected to participate in the Big Ten Leadership Conference in 2013.

Volleyball’s Kristen Kelsay was the winner of the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service & Leadership Award. The award is presented to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the goals of the PACT (Putting Athletes and Community Together) program, excelling in the field of community service and outreach. The three-time captain and Women’s National Team Tryout Selection ranks sixth in MSU history in assists and fourth all time for career sets. A native of Wheaton, Ill., Kelsay owns a 3.861 GPA as a psychology major and has recorded four perfect 4.0 semesters. She is an active participant in several events throughout the Greater Lansing area including Relay for Life, Teddy Bear Toss and Family Fun Night. Kelsay also attended the NCAA Leadership Forum in 2013 and currently serves as the president of the Student-Athlete-Advisory Committee.

Finally, the Scholar-Athlete Awards were presented to the individual from each team who has reached at least junior academic status, has received a minimum of one varsity letter, and while meeting these requirements, maintains the highest cumulative grade point average on their team.

Baseball - Ryan Krill
Men's Basketball - Colby Wollenman
Women's Basketball - Becca Mills
Men's Cross Country - Caleb Rhynard
Women's Cross Country - Emma Drenth
Field Hockey - Abby Barker
Football - Mike Sadler
Men's Golf - Carson Castellani
Women's Golf - Jenny Sritragul
Gymnastics - Carson Tabiolo
Hockey - Justin Hoomaian
Rowing - Monica LaPointe
Men's Soccer - Ryan Keener
Women's Soccer - Lisa Vogel
Softball - Ellie Stoffer
Men's Swimming & Diving - David Zoltowski
Women's Swimming & Diving - Kelly Delorme
Men's Tennis - Harris Jadun
Women's Tennis - Olga Chernova
Men's Track & Field - Ryan Haag
Women's Track & Field - Julia Otwell
Volleyball - Kristen Kelsay
Wrestling - Joseph Johnson

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