By Sam King
Stephanie Ferri-Lewis sought the Division I athletics experience, but a scholarship offer to become a three-sport student-athlete ultimately drew the swimmer, soccer player and cross country runner to Division II Pfeiffer.
The initial plan was to attend the small Misenheimer, N.C. school for only one year and then transfer somewhere bigger. Those plans quickly changed.
Pfeiffer’s welcoming environment made such an immediate impression that Ferri-Lewis committed to stay. She went on to become one of the most decorated student-athletes in Pfeiffer history. And her academic and athletic success earned her a spot on the Division II 40th Anniversary Tribute Team – a grouping of alumni from each Division II conference who are a true representation of Division II’s commitment to providing its student-athletes a ‘Life in the Balance’ that extends beyond athletics.
“It was perfect for me. You’re a kid at that point,” said Ferri-Lewis, who is now an emergency medical physician in Springfield, Mo., where she is a married mother of two. “You don’t know what is right for you. I don’t think I would have been as successful at a bigger school. Pfeiffer made a lot of allowances for me.”
Those allowances had to be made for the busy schedule of competing in three sports paired with a rigorous academic program.
A trailblazer during a period of expanding athletics opportunities for women, Ferri-Lewis competed on the Falcons’ first women’s cross country team as well as the school’s first women’s soccer team.
Managing three sports along with a demanding academic environment helped the Cape Coral, Fla., native learn the importance of time management, particularly after an advisor opened her eyes to a new career path.
As a post-graduate, Ferri-Lewis wanted to stay in sports and envisioned a life in sports medicine. That vision convinced her to switch her major to biology with visions of medical school.
But the lab work cut into practice times while juggling cross country, swimming and soccer schedules. Academic commitments came first at Pfeiffer, so her coaches allowed her to perform workouts on her own time to accommodate conflicting lab requirements.
Regardless, Ferri-Lewis continued to thrive academically and athletically. She was voted team captain by her soccer teammates and brought home numerous individual honors in swimming and cross country.
Ferri-Lewis went to college as an athlete and blossomed into a true student-athlete, receiving the 1994 NCAA North Carolina Scholar Athlete Woman of the Year award. That honor capped off a lengthy list of awards she earned over her career at Pfeiffer.
She was named the Pfeiffer Female Athlete of the Year three consecutive times from 1992-94 and also garnered academic All-America honors in each of her three sports. The team captain was a two-time Murphy Osborne Award winner, which recognizes a Conference Carolinas student-athlete based on academics, athletics, leadership, service and community involvement.
Ferri-Lewis remains a competitor today. Searching to feed that drive, she participates in triathlons and marathons.
“You’ve got to be able to manage your time and figure out where to make your sacrifices but still be able to live a balanced life,” Ferri-Lewis said. “I think that’s what carries over the best. I am an emergency doctor; I have two kids and also run a household.
“I am still an athlete — an old lady-athlete, but an athlete nonetheless. It’s still a balanced life and that’s what carried over the best from my Division II experience at Pfeiffer.”