Greetings from Bucknell and the 400 acres set apart!
I hope this letter finds you well and enjoying the warm days of summer. We always say “there is no offseason” in college athletics, and that has certainly been the case at Bucknell this summer. Even though our 27 varsity teams are on hiatus from game competition for the summer, our athletics venues have still been buzzing. From camps and clinics to long-course swim meets, young athletes from all over the region have descended on Bucknell this summer to take advantage of our outstanding facilities.
We have also been tracking a number of facilities projects around the Langone Athletics & Recreation Center. These ventures range from relatively minor improvements such as new flooring and roofing in some areas of the facility, to a new hydrotherapy room in the sports medicine center, to the start of the remodeling of the Charlie Woollum Lobby in Sojka Pavilion, all the way up to putting the final touches on the beautiful new Graham Building.
We are all extremely excited to show off the Graham Building once it opens to the public later this summer. Coach Dan Wirnsberger and his wrestling team are making preparations to move into the second floor of the facility, which will provide a first-class training center for our student-athletes. The first floor will house Bucknell’s new campus health and wellness center.
I am so thankful to Bill Graham for all that he has done for Bucknell Athletics through the years, and the new building that bears his name will impact thousands of students for many more decades to come. Bill’s love and passion for his alma mater have led to him taking on a philanthropic leadership role at Bucknell, and I would also like to take a moment to thank the nearly 4,000 of you who joined Bill in backing Bison Athletics over the past year.
Our dedicated supporters helped set a new record with over $2.6 million raised for Bucknell Athletics during the 2015-16 fiscal year!
Our coaches and student-athletes rely on your generous financial support in order to achieve an exceptional Division I experience at Bucknell. We are proud that so many of you have stepped up to help YOUR program be the best that it can be. Thank you!
From a competitive perspective, we enjoyed another successful year in 2015-16. Backed by Patriot League championships in women’s cross country and women’s outdoor track and field, and regular-season titles in men’s and women’s basketball, Bucknell finished second in the Patriot League Presidents’ Cup race this year. We were just 4.5 points behind Navy in one of the closest competitions ever, and we did win the Women’s Cup by a mere 0.25 points over Boston University.
The competition in the Patriot League has never been stronger, and I am proud of our coaches and staff who work tirelessly to position our programs to compete for championships year in and year out within this challenging landscape. We are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient with our resources in order to stay ahead of our competition.
It was also another banner year for our student-athletes in the classroom. Almost half of our roster of student-athletes – 340 total – made the Dean’s List in the spring semester with a grade-point average of 3.50 or better. Distance runner Luke Giugliano became our third CoSIDA Academic All-American this year, joining men’s soccer’s Jesse Klug and football’s Matt DelMauro.
For the second year in a row, a student-athlete received the President’s Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement, the highest honor given at the President’s Senior Awards Ceremony held during Commencement Weekend. This year it was Nora Adams of the women’s cross country and track and field teams, who was the only senior in the entire class to graduate with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Nora followed rower Margo Boyd, who received the President’s Award in 2015.
Jesse Klug also earned one of our league’s highest honors, the Patriot League Award of Leadership and Character. The Class of 2016 was filled with shining examples such as Jesse, Katie Price, Amanda Fazio and Ryan Frazier, who were all awarded the ‘Ray Bucknell Diversity Award at this year’s Senior Athletics Dinner. While winning championships is nice, student-athletes like Jesse, who have taken on leadership roles in important social causes such as diversity and inclusion, are what make working in college athletics so worthwhile.
Under the leadership of new associate athletic director for leadership development Lauren Cavallaro, the Bucknell Bison Leadership Academy will continue to expand this year, with a rebranding initiative on tap. One of the goals of the Leadership Academy is to cultivate and encourage student-athletes such as those mentioned above, who want to take on issues that go well beyond the playing fields.
Please join me in welcoming new head women’s golf coach Lisa Francisco to our staff. Lisa played golf at Penn State, coached at William & Mary, and also spent time as a caddie on the LPGA Tour. She brings vast knowledge of the game to our program. Another new head coach will soon be named in the sport of men’s tennis.
I would also like to formally welcome Linda Smolka, who has been appointed by President Bravman Bucknell’s new NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative. Linda is a very highly respected member of Bucknell’s mathematics department, and she was a standout student-athlete herself, an All-American in fact, in softball at Princeton. Linda replaces the retiring Mitch Chernin, who held the post for the last 13 years and has been a great friend and resource to Bison Athletics.
As August approaches, we look forward to the return of our fall student-athletes as they begin preseason preparations for the 2016 season. The first official event is a women’s soccer home game against Monmouth on Friday, August 19. The football team plays its first two games on the road this year, with the home opener coming on Sept. 17 against Cornell. The complete fall calendar can be found HERE.
As always, thank you so much for your continued support of Bison Athletics. Enjoy the summer weather, and I hope to see you at one of our contests this fall. Go BISON!
John P. Hardt
Director of Athletics and Recreation