UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted the annual “The Nittanys” for the 35th consecutive year, and returned to an in-person format for the first time in two years. The celebration of comprehensive excellence was held Monday night on the main floor of the Bryce Jordan Center as the student-athletes, coaches and staff gathered.
More than 40 Penn State student-athletes and several teams were recognized for their academic, athletic, and community engagement achievements in an awards-style format.
Sponsored by Penn State Student-Athlete Welfare & Development, the event featured the presentation of several long-standing awards from the Academic Achievement Awards Banquet that was coordinated by the Morgan Academic Center for nearly 30 years, as well as some more recently established honors.
The Nittanys’ theme was SAAB’s 2021-22 theme, “Protect the Pride,” and the festivities were hosted by Sean Clifford (football) and Anna Camden (women’s basketball).
Women’s Soccer Earns Highest Team GPA; Women’s Volleyball and Football Claim Varsity ‘S’ Honor
The women’s soccer team was presented with the Milton K. Morgan Jr. Highest Team GPA Award for their efforts during the 2020-21 academic year. The women’s soccer team had the highest team GPA among all 31 sports. Also honored for their hard work in the classroom, the Varsity ‘S’ Club Most Improved Team GPA awards were presented to the women’s volleyball and football teams.
Ernest B. McCoy Award
The McCoy Award is named for 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 men’s and women’s student-athlete who has combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.
The honorees of the Ernest B. McCoy award 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 serious adversity athletically or even personally, stands as a testament to their tremendous character and indomitable spirit. This award is sponsored by the Nittany Lion Club.
This year’s honorees were Kourtney Chinnery (women’s gymnastics) and Cole Bartels (baseball).
Above and Beyond Mr. & Ms. Penn State
This award was established by SAAB to recognize the contributions of one male and one female senior student-athlete who display the true spirit of “WE ARE” as exemplified by their contributions and inspirations to their respective teams, as well their passion for everything Penn State . Recipients of this award are recognized for the following qualities: caring, encouragement, humility, honesty, humor, kindness, patience and school spirit. This year’s award recipients were Ally Schlegel (women’s soccer) and John Harrar (men’s basketball).
Behind the Scenes Heroes
This award established by SAAB to recognize individuals who are the embodiment of what it means to be selfless in the service of others, with no expectation of recognition, but are vital to student-athletes success here at Penn State. Morgan Academic Center associate director and academic counselor 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, rise from the ashes and to shine brightly for all to see. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose determination and perseverance in overcoming some initial tough challenges academically, to now shine brightly and confidently here at Penn State. The 2021-22 recipient of the Phoenix Award was Sadie Schumann from women’s swimming & diving.
Big Ten Graduate Scholarship
Recipients of this award receive a $7,500-dollar scholarship for postgraduate studies. To be eligible for this award a nominee must be in their final season of competition, have a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher, is a model example of leadership and integrity, recommended by two of their professors, and plan to enroll in a graduate degree program after graduation. This year’s Big Ten Postgraduate Scholarship recipients were Claire Swedberg from softball and Keegan Ness from men’s soccer.
THON Donor Drive Challenge
This award created by SAAB is in recognition of the team that raised the highest total this year on behalf of THON. The team which raised the most money collectively for THON was women’s basketball.
Two additional awards were presented to two individuals who made major contributions to THON in 2021-22. Hannah Zemaitis (field hockey) was recognized as the student-athlete who individually raised the highest total on behalf of THON. Shelly Marget (women’s swimming & diving) was honored with the THON Spirit Award. This award recognizes a student-athlete whose commitment to bringing awareness and funding to find a cure to end pediatric cancer, has been unmatched in their energy, effort and passion for all things THON.
This award is presented to a student-athlete from each team who have earned the highest cumulative grade point average on his or her team, following 60 or more undergraduate hours earned at Penn State.
Nittany All-Academic Team-Individual highest cumulative GPA on 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 Autio*
Women’s 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 & Diving: Lachlan Byrne
Women’s Swimming & Diving: Nikolette Nolte (Tied)
Women’s Swimming & Diving: Marget Shelly (Tied)
Men’s Tennis: Ismail Saadi
Women’s Tennis: Gracey Hirsch*
Men’s Track & Field: Evan Dorenkamp
Women’s Track & Field: Victoria Vanriele
Men’s Volleyball: Gabe Hartke
Women’s Volleyball: Jonni Parker
Wrestling: Austin Hoopes*
* indicates repeat member and 4.0 GPA’s
Penn State Among the Nation’s Premier Athletic Programs in Comprehensive Excellence
Under the Barbour’s leadership, Penn State has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, featuring 800 student-athletes across 31 varsity programs (16 men’s, 15 women’s). The Nittany Lions’ 31 programs are tied for the fourth-highest number of sports sponsored by a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institution.
Nittany Lion students have posted an NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of program-record 92 percent in the most recent report. Have teams earned a 100 percent graduation rate in the 2021 NCAA Graduation Rates Report. The Nittany Lions rank No. 4 among all Division I schools with 213 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time.
Penn State student-athletes have led the athletic department to 47 Big Ten championships and nine NCAA National Championships since October 2013. Penn State is one of only five schools that have won at least 10 NCAA Championships since 2012 and earned at least a 90 percent Graduation Success Rate in the 2021 NCAA report (Stanford, Florida, USC, Virginia). The Nittany Lions rank fifth in the Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup following the fall season.
Record-Breaking NCAA Graduation Success Rate
The 2021 NCAA graduation rate report of Division I institutions across the nation revealed Penn State student-athletes at the University Park campus earned a Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 92% to tie the school’s all-time record of 92, which was previously set in the 2020 NCAA report. Nittany Lion students posted a 92% graduation rate compared to the 89% average for all Division I institutions for students entering from 2011-12 through the 2014-15 academic year.
Penn State student-athletes have logged a Graduation Success Rate in the 88-92% range during each of the past 15 NCAA reports, improving from 88% in the 2015 report to a record-breaking 92% report in 2020 and 2021. Sixteen of the Nittany Lions’ 27 teams (men’s and women’s track and field/cross country teams combined) earned a Graduation Success Rate at or above the Division I national GSR average for their respective sport. A total of 18 Penn State squads have a GSR of 90% or higher.