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May 10, 2010


By: Reyna Gilbert

Paul LaPenna's attention to academics helped him earn the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, which he'll use as he prepares for postgraduate education at VCOM next fall.

Since the turn of the millennium, the NCAA has recognized nine Virginia Tech student-athletes as postgraduate scholarship recipients. This is an average of at least one award per year, and during the 2008 and 2009 academic years, two Tech student-athletes received this scholarship. The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship was created in 1964 to promote and encourage postgraduate education by rewarding student-athletes for their achievements in athletics and academics. Campus involvement, community service, volunteer activities and demonstrated leadership are all evaluated during the application process. Each award recipient receives a $7,500 scholarship.

The NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship nomination is to be submitted by the faculty athletics representative (FAR). Dr. Larry Killough, professor in accounting and information systems in the Pamplin College of Business, is the faculty athletics representative at Tech. Killough has served as the FAR for the 20-plus years and also serves on the selection committee for the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship Program. Not only does Killough play a role in submitting the nomination, he also has a hand in selecting which student-athletes should be considered for the award.

“Having had the privilege of being a part of the selection committee for several years has made me much more aware and proud of the sacrifice and dedication of our student-athletes,” Killough said. “The award provides our student-athletes with the recognition that they have gone well beyond what student-athletes are expected to accomplish in college.”

The most recent Tech winner of the honor was men’s cross country and track student-athlete Paul LaPenna, who received his B.S. in human nutrition, foods, and exercise in December of 2009 and will start his postgraduate career at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine next fall.

“As a future physician, the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship will greatly assist in my ability to serve those in great need – that is, the people of rural America,” LaPenna said. “Both the prestige and financial aspects of the award make this a true honor.”

Three former Tech women’s swimmers have won the honor as well. Jill Turner received the award during the 2002-2003 academic year, and Jessica Botzum and Sara Smith were both recipients in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

“Jessica Botzum and Sara Smith represented Virginia Tech in a first-class manner their entire time in Blacksburg. Both women continue to excel, and I know how much they value their time as Hokies and being a part of this great university,” Tech head swimming and diving coach Ned Skinner said.

Botzum is currently the assistant coach for the men’s and women’s swimming teams at LSU and is working toward her master’s in kinesiology, with a concentration in exercise physiology. Smith is putting her scholarship to use right here in Blacksburg as a M.S. candidate in molecular virology within the Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology. Upon completing her master’s degree, she hopes to continue her education by attending veterinary school.

Along with swimming, three softball student-athletes have also received the scholarship. Ashlee Dobbe received the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship during the 2001-2002 season, and teammates Angela Tincher and Jenna Rhodes received the scholarships in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Upon graduation, Tincher was accepted into the Pamplin College of Business MBA program but chose to postpone her postgraduate career and play professional softball. Tincher recently began her collegiate coaching career after accepting an assistant coaching position at Syracuse University.

“It is always nice to be able to receive accolades on the field for a job well done, but for a special few, the ability to be able to take it to a different level on and off the field is truly amazing,” Tech coach Scot Thomas said. “We have been very fortunate to have several players who have been able to do that and represent Virginia Tech athletics and our softball program in the highest true meaning of the term ‘student-athlete.’”

It is the mission of the Virginia Tech athletics department to provide a positive environment and educational experience that promotes the development of the whole person and assists student-athletes in reaching their full potential. The commitment to athletic, academic and personal success has been evident in the many scholarship recipients. Not only is this a testament to faculty and coaching staffs at Tech, but also to the entire campus community for their unbridled support of Hokie athletics.