Amanda Fazio, Ryan Frazier, Jesse Klug and Katie Price were co-recipients of the 2016 ‘Ray Bucknell Diversity Award. They will be graduating Sunday along with 144 other Bucknell student-athletes.
It was a cold, snowy day in late-March of 2015, and the radiant smile that normally coats the face of Ryan Frazier had been washed away. Frazier’s despondence had nothing to do with the weather. Instead, he had just departed a jam-packed Weis Center, where he and more than 1,000 other members of the Bucknell community had just absorbed President John Bravman’s blunt address in the aftermath of a racial incident that occurred on the airwaves of campus radio station WVBU.
“I keep saying how this is not who we are, but my faith is shaking,” an emotional Bravman told the crowd that day. He challenged the room to unite and begin working on “the next version of Bucknell that we have to build.”
Frazier, as outgoing and likeable as any student at Bucknell, had also experienced first-hand the stench of racism, and he did not sit idly when an opportunity arose to share his story and try to make a difference. About two weeks after Bravman’s impassioned speech, a student-led solidarity rally was held in the Academic Quad in front of Bertrand Library. Several students came to the microphone and spoke courageously about their experiences with discrimination. Frazier was one of those who came forward to speak, and he did so brilliantly for nearly 11 minutes.
During his powerful message, Frazier recalled a time when a classmate walked up to him on the street and referred to him with the “n-word.” He confessed to the hurt that the episode caused him, but that he was not seeking pity, but rather to rally the Bucknell community to work together to make Bucknell, “the most inclusive and comfortable social environment for all of our students.” He added that, “Bucknell is educating the next generation of leaders of our society, and as those leaders, it is our duty to first make this school, and then the world, as great a place as we know it can be. Let’s start now.”
As a high-profile member of the Bucknell and Lewisburg communities – Frazier played in 128 straight games as a guard on the Bison men’s basketball team – he hoped that his voice would resonate.
“The basketball court is a wonderful place to develop skills in how to work with people from diverse backgrounds,” Frazier said. “Teams are a combination of people who are very different from one another. To reach the objective that everyone has, you have to be able to respect the differences on your team.”
Frazier’s eagerness to make his voice heard during one of Bucknell’s most difficult times in recent history helped him earn the 2015 Patriot League Award of Leadership and Character. It also underscored just what an impressive group of senior student-athletes will be departing Bucknell with the Class of 2016.
Earlier this spring, nearly 180 students, faculty and staff packed the Terrace Room for a Community Dinner, which was developed, planned and coordinated by Frazier and fellow senior student-athletes Amanda Fazio (softball) and Katie Price (volleyball). The event was the brainchild of Fazio and Price, who approached the athletics administration following the solidary rally last spring, clamoring to do something more as a student-athlete body to address campus climate concerns.
With the assistance of more than a dozen additional student-athlete facilitators who led table conversations throughout the room, the Community Dinner focused on discussion in three critical yet frequently uncomfortable topics: privilege, racial discrimination, and gender and sexuality.
Audience members, consisting primarily of student-athletes from a wide array of Bison varsity teams, along with faculty, staff, deans and students not on varsity sports teams, watched short videos on each topic before breaking out into smaller table discussions.
“I had such great conversations at my table,” said Price, who was a two-year captain of the Bison volleyball squad. “The most important thing about this is just to continue the conversation, and this was one additional outlet for Bucknell community members to gather and at least talk and exchange ideas.”
Few student-athletes have taken a greater interest in making Bucknell better than Price. She was a rare three-year captain and an outstanding defensive player on the Bison volleyball squad, and Price has also been one of the most-involved students on campus in terms of volunteering her time to various causes and campus governance organizations. She was selected as a student representative on the Bucknell Committee on Athletics, the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid and the Financial Planning and Budget Committee. Price served as a student hearing panelist for Bucknell’s Academic Review Board and Community Conduct Board, and she was Vice President for Judicial Affairs for the Bucknell Panhellenic Council. Price was the chief financial officer for the Bucknell Student Government, where she managed a portfolio of over a half-million dollars and allocates funds to various student organizations.
“These topics are hard to talk about,” added Fazio. “I think that’s why we don’t have these conversations enough, because we are scared of saying the wrong thing. But the more you talk the better it gets. Hopefully that’s what we were able to accomplish here.”
Fazio was one of the finest all-around softball players in the Patriot League. She is Bucknell’s all-time strikeout leader, as well as an outstanding outfielder and leadoff hitter. However, her softball prowess only begins to tell the story of the impact that she made on the Bucknell campus and beyond.
Fazio served as an advocacy chair for the Inter Residence Hall Association, where she coordinated community service and social events for the new South Campus Apartments community. Last summer, she did an award-winning independent research project studying international climate change as part of the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy.
Earlier this semester, Frazier was one of four student-athletes who spoke at the inaugural Bucknell Diversity Summit, a two-day event held on campus featuring many presentations, panels and guest speakers. The theme of this year’s summit was “Identity, Inclusion and Social Transformation: Centering Race, Power and Privilege.”
Frazier was a panelist for the “Student Activism and the Academy” session. Senior Clarke Fox (men’s soccer), senior Devan Schulte (women’s soccer) and junior Jordan Walker (volleyball) were all panelists for the “Speech and Action: White Students’ Reflections on Hateful Language” discussion.
Very few student-athletes in the country have embraced activism like Jesse Klug of the Bison men’s soccer team. Klug has been the very definition of “difference-maker” on the Bucknell campus. Even though he is one of the all-time leading scorers in Patriot League soccer history, his impact on the pitch only scratches the surface of what he has meant to Bucknell University and to the LGBTQ community across the country over the last four years.
When Klug first arrived at Bucknell for preseason soccer camp in August of his freshman year, he immediately came out to his teammates. He was warmly accepted by everyone in the Bison men’s soccer program, and he quickly set his sights on a larger mission: to promote social justice and acceptance on campus and around the world.
In the fall of his sophomore year, Klug had his essay, “Open Letter on Homosexuality”, published on the website Outsports.com. The piece served as a strong rebuttal against those who disapprove of homosexuality, while detailing some of Klug’s own experiences as an openly gay man.
Much to his surprise, the article went viral. It became the third-most-read story on Outsports.com in 2013, and it was picked up by outlets such as the Huffington Post, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, and others. Adding to Klug’s amazement, nearly all of the comments he received – from friends, the Bucknell community and total strangers – were positive.
Of all the feedback Klug received, many of the notes that touched him most were from other student-athletes and people he didn’t know.
“A lot of the messages I got were like ‘hey this really struck me,’” Klug said. “Either a family member has gone through something similar or I’ve gone through something similar. I did my best to respond to all of them. Some of them were a little more urgent, and I tried to respond to them right away. It was a little bit of a whirlwind, but I really enjoyed the whole experience.”
Along with writing a strongly worded editorial that served as a direct attack against intolerance comes an element of responsibility. Klug has never been one to back down from a challenge. It is obvious in how he plays soccer, and in his support for a cause.
“I felt the responsibility that comes along with doing that piece, but to me it wasn’t that unique, because as an openly gay athlete you never stop being ‘the gay athlete,’” he said. “I wish it wasn’t like that, that people look at me as a representation of a larger group. But that is the reality.”
On campus, Klug has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights. In 2014, he was selected as one of 12 “Leaders in Action” nationwide, as an activist promoting social justice and inclusion on college campuses. He attended a Creating Change Conference in Houston and also served as a panelist for a discussion on campus climate at Bucknell.
In mid-April of this year, Klug went to Indianapolis as a panelist at the NCAA Inclusion Forum. He spoke at a session titled, “Supporting Students and Staff: Developing LGBTQ Inclusive Policy and Best Practices”. One of his co-panelists was Pat Griffin, who is one of the pioneers and leaders in addressing LGBT issues in sports.
Klug says that one of the best outcomes of his trip to Indianapolis were the networking opportunities. His comments were so well-received that he quickly garnered a number of invitations to work with various LDBTQ advocacy groups after graduation. He is now weighing those options, but came away from the conference with a renewed eagerness to stay involved in LGBTQ activism, particularly for athletes.
Klug has received numerous awards during his time at Bucknell. This year he was one of 10 national finalists for the Senior CLASS Award and was later named a Senior CLASS First Team All-American. He was a managing for sustainability major with a 3.70 cumulative grade-point average (he earned a perfect 4.0 in the fall 2015 semester), and this year he was selected as a national CoSIDA Academic All-American for the second year in a row. Klug was also named the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year for men's soccer. He has won the Charles F. White Prize for Scholar-Athletes and the ECAC Merit Award, and he is in Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa (service chair) honor societies.
On the field, Klug was one of the top players in the Patriot League and one of the premier strikers in the East throughout his career. He was a two-time All-Patriot League and two-time All-Mid-Atlantic Region selection.
As his time at Bucknell winds down, Klug has a very good perspective on what his legacy will be. Scoring 29 career goals, winning a Patriot League Championship, and going to the NCAA Tournament, while rewarding and exciting, will not be at the top of his list.
“The point of athletics is not to become better at athletics,” he said. “The point of athletics is to develop as a person. If you are not having conversations constructively, then you are missing a large part of the picture that I think is the most valuable part.”