Annual event honors those who champion the efforts of student-athletes
12:32 p.m., April 30, 2014--University of Delaware student-athletes and coaches recently came together to honor some of their biggest fans and greatest supporters. They gathered in the lobby addition of the Bob Carpenter Center to participate in this year’s Celebration of Scholarship – Athletics, an annual reception hosted by President Patrick Harker and Director of Athletics and Recreation Services Eric Ziady.
Now in its third year, the event gives coaches and student-athletes an opportunity to engage with the individuals and organizations who support Blue Hen Athletics through the creation and ongoing support of named scholarships.
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“This is truly a special evening for us,” said Ziady. “Tonight we have the unique opportunity to recognize, honor and thank the donors who support our student-athletes in the most direct way possible: through the scholarship that funds their experience as a UD student-athlete.
“I think the best part of this is that it allows the people that invest so much both in time and effort as well as resources, to see the byproduct and the result of their investment,” he added. “There’s no better way for us to do it than with our student-athletes face to face.”
In his remarks at the event, Harker acknowledged and thanked the donors for their willingness to make such individual connections and for their ability to see each student-athlete as much more than a name and number on a team’s roster.
“Donors like you support not just college athletes, but college students,” said Harker, “graduates who will be successful long after their playing days are over.”
In addition to Harker and Ziady, a scholarship donor and two athletic scholarship recipients were chosen to speak at the event on behalf of their peers.
Darelle Lake Riabov, a member of UD’s Class of 1973 and the immediate past-president of the University of Delaware Alumni Association and a current member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council, spoke on behalf of athletic scholarship donors. As 30-year Double-Dels, Riabov and her husband, John Riabov, of the Class of 1975, have remained diehard Blue Hens throughout the years. In May 2012, the Riabovs made a generous commitment to establish the Darelle Lake Riabov and John Riabov Volleyball Scholarship, the UD women’s volleyball program’s first endowed scholarship.
In her remarks, Riabov drew parallels between various levels of engagement with UD and levels of engagement with sports from the “couch potatoes,” who graduate from UD and never look back, to the “ tri-athletes,” who are involved with UD in multiple ways, such as mentoring students, hiring Hens or offering internships. Riabov likened the Celebration of Scholarship – Athletic audience to “champion athletes,” engaged with UD at the highest levels.
“You are an elite group of UD supporters who have an unwavering dedication to see your student-athlete succeed,” said Riabov, addressing the crowd. “If you think about it, there are two kinds of ‘champions’ in this room the student-athletes and the UD donors who champion them. Not everyone achieves this level of dedication. And although there are rewards to all levels of engagement, we're here tonight to honor those who aren't content to be just couch potatoes.”
Alex Alois, a senior majoring in communication, spoke at the event on behalf of female athletes. Alois is a defender on the women’s lacrosse team and the recipient of the Mary Ann Hitchens Athletic Scholarship.
“The lessons I have learned, and the relationships I have built, will stay with me far beyond my time on campus,” said Alois. “I will bring the fight of a Delaware Blue Hen to whatever challenge life throws at me.”
Alois was “humbled” to receive a scholarship named in honor of someone she considers, “a pioneer in women’s athletics.” Mary Ann Hitchens, a member of the Class of 1967 who received a master’s degree in 1971, spent over 40 years at UD first as a student, then as head coach of both field hockey and women’s basketball, and finally as a nationally recognized athletics administrator. Hitchens is a member of the UD Athletics Hall of Fame and the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.
“Her legacy is as vibrant today as it was in her days of service,” said Alois of Hitchens. “Now, every female athlete with a dream of competing at the Division I level wearing the Delaware Blue and Gold can confidently pursue that dream.”
Ryan Cobb, a fashion merchandising student and starting fullback on the football team, gave remarks on behalf of male athletes. Cobb, who dreams of one day working for Under Armour or Nike, is the recipient of the Tubby Raymond Football Scholarship, named in honor of UD’s legendary head football coach.
Cobb described how he walked away from a full-scholarship at the University of Virginia only to find himself in front of the Delaware Field House with nothing but suitcases and an application for admission. He was searching for a college that was a better fit, and UD quickly became his “home-away-from-home.”
“Delaware has not only proved to be a better fit for me, but it has also shaped me into a person I never imagined I could become,” the New Jersey native said. “My experiences on and off the field at Delaware have made me a better person. This place is special for me. I hope one day I am in a position to support future Blue Hens, like Coach Raymond and his supporters have done for me.”
Article by Christopher Hannigan and Shannon Pote
Photos by Lane McLaughlin