2013 SASS Academic Gala Celebrates Student-Athlete Success
April 16, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. -- - Michigan State's Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) hosted the 16th annual Spartan Academic Excellence Gala on Monday night at the Breslin Center. The evening recognized the academic success of the Spartan student-athletes during the 2012-13 school year.
More than 250 MSU student-athletes (sophomore academic standing and above) were honored for achieving a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better. Overall, MSU student-athletes have an overall grade-point average of 3.01, the fourth consecutive semester with a cumulative GPA over a 3.0 and third consecutive fall semester of reaching that achievement. Michigan State boasts an 85% all-sport graduation rate, with 96% of female athletes and 77% of men's athletes receiving degrees.
"This year, we celebrated the 15th year of the Clara Bell Smith Academic Center, and tonight we celebrated some of the highest academic achievements for our student- athletes for all time," said Associate Athletic Director for Student Services and Director of Student-Athlete Support Services Jim Pignataro. "Each event brings athletics and academics together to showcase MSU's best and brightest. We feel it is an honor to work with such talented student-athletes and a joy to watch them represent MSU with class."
This year's distinguished keynote speaker was ESPN host Chris Fowler. A fixture at ESPN since he started with the network in 1986, Fowler plays the role of host, commentator or play-by-play announcer for many of ESPN's signature productions. Perhaps best known as the host of College GameDay since 1990, Fowler also anchors ESPN's Grand Slam tennis coverage along with action from FIFA World Cup soccer. He has also served as the network's host of the Heisman Trophy Show since 1994 and The Home Depot College Football Awards Show since 1993. As the voice of SportsCentury, Fowler was honored with two sports Emmy Awards.
A long-standing tradition and highlight of the Gala is one of MSU's student athletes providing musical entertainment at the Gala.- In his sophomore season at MSU, David Zoltowski's talents go beyond the classroom and swimming pool. A gifted and self-taught piano player, he played a selection from the Beatles, Elton John, the Lumineers, and M83 for the more than 500 guests in attendance on Monday. A perfect 4.0 electrical engineering major, Zoltowski has secured a research internship in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota.
For the third straight year, the Academic Gala was grand sponsored by Dr. Bruce and Linda Cohen.
The President's Award, the night's most prestigious award, was presented to field hockey standout Corey Block (Chelsea, Mich.) and golfer David Ellis (Negaunee, Mich.). The award recognizes the male and female graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA and who has exhausted their eligibility in the 2012-13 school year.
A three-time Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar, Ellis has achieved Dean's List honors every semester and maintains a very impressive 3.99 GPA. In addition to his excellence in the classroom, Ellis has led the MSU men's golf team as the captain for the past two years. Ellis is also active in the Student-Athlete Support Services Putting Athletes and Community Together (PACT) program and has volunteered at such events as March is Reading Month, Teams for Toys, and the Student-Athlete Food Drive.
Block, a five-time NFHCA National Academic Squad honoree, graduated in December with a 3.96 GPA while majoring in kinesiology with a Pre-Professional cognate and a specialization in Health Promotion. As a four-year letter winner, Block led the field hockey team as a co-captain for three years and was a member of the 2009 Big Ten Championship team. Block showcased her commitment to the community by actively participating in the Student-Athlete Support Services' Putting Athletes and Community Together (PACT) program. Block will be attending Physical Therapy School at Ohio University in the fall.
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 2012 semester. Men's tennis and head coach Gene Orlando hold a 3.36 team GPA, and claim the award for the sixth-straight year and for a record ninth time. Additionally, the team had three student-athletes obtain a perfect 4.0 for the Fall 2012 semester. Meanwhile, the 2012 Big Ten Champion women's golf team, led by head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, boasts an impressive 3.466 cumulative GPA. Each eligible member of the team qualified for this year's Gala.
Track & field student-athlete Kevin Jackson (Detroit, Mich.) 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 programming. This three-time letter winner and three-year SAAC Representative has shown an outstanding commitment to the overall mission of Student-Athlete Support Services. As a member of the Athletic Council, the MSU Representative to the Big Ten SAAC and a 2011 NCAA Leadership Forum participant, Jackson's leadership and influence goes well beyond the borders of the Michigan State campus or the Greater Lansing area. As a public administration and public policy major, he has been selected as a two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar. Jackson involves himself in a variety of outreach activities while also serving as a leader and role model to other student-athletes. Jackson will graduate in May and is planning to attend Michigan State University College of Law in the fall.
Hockey's Justin Hoomaian (Novi, Mich.) and field hockey standout Abby Barker (Columbus, Ohio) were honored 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.
It has not taken long for Hoomaian to make an impact at Michigan State in the classroom, in the community, and as a member of the hockey program. He has done an excellent job balancing his academic and athletic endeavors, as well as taking an active role in community outreach initiatives. This 2013 varsity letter winner also holds a 3.924 grade point average in Kinesiology and is the hockey representative for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. As an active member of Student-Athlete Support Services' Putting Athletes and Community Together (PACT), Hoomaian has volunteered with Teams for Toys, Relay for Life, the Student-Athlete Food Drive, as well as many other experiences.
An impact student-athlete on the field, Barker is a two-year varsity letter winner that led the field hockey team in scoring during her freshman season. Not only has Barker's field hockey success continued as a sophomore where she was selected as First Team All-Big Ten, but her achievements have gone beyond the field and into the classroom and the community. Barker currently holds a 3.681 grade point average in kinesiology and was a 2012 Academic All-Big Ten award recipient, as well as a two-time selection for NFHCA National Academic Squad. As an active participant in Student-Athlete Support Services' Putting Athletes and Community Together (PACT) program, Barker has volunteered for such events as Chuck A Puck, Women's Day of Service, Teams for Toys, and the Greater Lansing Food Bank.
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.