Born to serve

By Jack Copeland

Amy Sullivan’s specialty on the Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team was service aces.

But given her versatility on the court – she ranks third in the Bears’ record book in both career solo blocks and aces -- it’s no surprise that she scored points not just in her sport but in nearly everything she has done.

She set a Division III single-game record of 14 aces in a regular-season contest during her senior season – a mark that stood for five years – and slammed home eight serves and added 12 kills against Juniata in the 1993 championship game as the Bears won their third straight national title.

“Amy served out of her head,” coach Teri Clemens said after the win – a victory that gave the Bears a 124-8 record (including a 40-0 mark in 1992) for Sullivan’s three championship years in St. Louis (she played her freshman season at Occidental).

She is now a radiologist in Houston, specializing in breast imaging. She graduated in 1999 from Washington University’s medical school, where she was president of her class, and then served her residency in diagnostic radiology and a fellowship at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology.

She also is one of 10 Division III student-athletes graduating since 1973 who have been elected to the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Academic All-America Hall of Fame. She was the college division Academic All-America player of the year in volleyball in both her junior and senior years.

Her alma mater’s alumni magazine, shortly after her graduation, called her the model that founders must have had in mind “when the ideological concept of a Division III student-athlete was crafted by the NCAA.”

Off the court, the biology major maintained a near-perfect grade-point average while volunteering with Special Olympics and in a St. Louis hospital emergency room, and working at youth sports camps. As a member of a junior-class leadership organization, she also played a major role in planning the university’s Thurtene charity carnival – the oldest and largest student-run event of its kind in America.

When she was inducted into the Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 2007, she told the American College of Radiology ACR Bulletin newsletter that she learned under Clemens “how much fun it could be to work so hard” – a lesson that carried over into her pursuits in the classroom and elsewhere.

She remains competitive athletically, as a member of a masters swim team in Texas.

Clemens never doubted that Sullivan’s achievements as a student-athlete marked just the beginning of a successful life.

“Amy will excel at anything she tackles in life,” she said in that 1993 article in the alumni magazine. “She truly has been the best of the best.”

Years later, Clemens remained proud, saying “Amy is truly a championship student-athlete continuing to compete and succeed beyond class and court.”

Nominated by Chris Mitchell, director of sports information at Washington University in St. Louis.