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April 7, 2011

Simon and Drager receive Skelton Awards as Tech honors athletes for academic success

By: Reyna Gilbert-Lowry

Chris Drager and Laura Simon

The Hokie student-athletes have reached new heights on the field, court, track and in the pool this semester, and more importantly, in the classroom. It doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day, but somehow these students manage to balance the challenging rigors of academics and athletics at Virginia Tech.

Each year, the Virginia Tech athletics department bestows its most prestigious award on one male and one female student-athlete for their ability to navigate successfully the challenging terrain of Division I intercollegiate athletics. The Skelton Awards for Academic Excellence in Athletics for the 2011-2012 academic year were recently presented to sophomore swimmer Laura Simon and redshirt senior tight end Chris Drager at the 2011 Athletic Director’s Honors Breakfast on April 2. The Skelton Award, named after the late Dr. Bill and his wife Peggy Skelton, is presented each year to a rising junior, senior or fifth-year male and female student-athlete who has participated in intercollegiate athletics for at least two seasons at Virginia Tech. Each recipient receives a scholarship for $5,000 for the upcoming academic year.

This annual breakfast event serves as a platform to recognize the academic successes of the Virginia Tech student-athletes. In addition to the Skelton Award recipients, the members of the 2010 Athletic Director’s Honor Roll were also recognized. The AD Honor Roll is designed to pay tribute to student-athletes who have achieved a grade-point average of 3.0 or better during one or both semesters in the preceding calendar year. Since its inception in 1988, the Honor Roll has recognized an average of more than 200 student-athletes each semester. This year, 362 student-athletes made the AD Honor Roll, which is more than 65 percent of the entire student-athlete population.

The ACC also sponsors an award to outstanding senior student-athletes. Each institution establishes criteria for the award, and Virginia Tech has chosen to honor seniors who excel in balancing the academic and athletic demands of intercollegiate athletics. This year’s ACC-VT Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year are Kelly Phillips and Pedro Graber.

Phillips is one of the top female track and field student-athletes in school history. She recently won the NCAA Elite 88 Academic Award and was named to the USTFCCCA All-Academic squad for the second time. She is a two-time ACC champion and All-American in the pole vault, and set a new school record during the 2011 indoor season. Graber has been a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll and Virginia Tech AD Honor Roll since enrolling at Virginia Tech. He is a two-time ITA Scholar-Athlete. During the 2009-2010 academic year, he was honored with the Skelton Award for Academic Excellence in Athletics.

The ACC is also committed to providing student-athletes with financial support for postgraduate endeavors through the ACC Postgraduate Scholarship Program. Phillips and Graber, along with women’s soccer player Jennifer Harvey, are recipients of the 2010-2011 ACC Postgraduate Scholarship Awards, also known as the Weaver-James-Corrigan Graduate Scholarship.

The Weaver-James-Corrigan scholarships are awarded to three student-athletes from each conference institution who intend to pursue a postgraduate degree. Each recipient receives $5,000 to contribute to his or her postgraduate education. Harvey and Phillips both plan to attend medical school. Graber is currently pursuing a master’s degree in industrial systems engineering at Tech and hopes to pursue a career in operational research.

The athletics department is proud to recognize the outstanding impact these student-athletes are making in their academic careers. Not only does it show how successful they are in harmonizing their multiple commitments, but it also proves that they have highlighted the “student” in student-athlete first and foremost.