The NCAA awarded the 2014 Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship to two student-athletes who intend to use the $24,000 renewable award to attend medical school. This year’s recipients are Karenee Demery, a biology major at Division II California State University, Stanislaus, who competed in women’s soccer, and Kyle Boden, a biology major and football player at Division III Emory and Henry College in Virginia.
The Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship is awarded annually to one male and one female student-athlete in recognition of outstanding academic achievement and potential for future success. Established in 1988, to qualify for the award the nominee must be a graduating senior or enrolled in graduate study at an NCAA member institution. Winners must have attained an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5, competed on a varsity team at an NCAA member school, evidenced superior character and leadership, and demonstrated that participation in athletics and community service positively influenced the recipients’ personal and intellectual development.
The program is administered by a committee of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences. The winners were selected through a competitive process that included in-person interviews with six finalists—three men and three women.
Homeschooled throughout high school, Karenee Demery’s only exposure to organized sports came through travel teams. Nevertheless, the biology major with a minor in chemistry jumped into her college studies and embraced her teammates, earning a 3.7 GPA and the praise of Warrior Head Coach Gabriel Bolton, who called Demery the “finest student-athlete I have ever coached in my nearly 20 years of collegiate experience.”
Demery knew she wanted to be a physician when, while in the eighth grade, her father had a stroke, and the family spent months at the hospital. “Ever since then it’s something that has just been in my heart to do,” she said.Academics have always been crucial to Demery’s experience, and she selected Cal State Stanislaus largely because of its academic focus. “I think my school, in particular, put a lot of emphasis on my academics, and that was a really good choice for me because that’s what it’s always been about,” she said.
Demery received the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America Women’s Soccer Player of the Year award for Division II women’s soccer. An accomplished player on the field, Demery was the Division II Women’s Soccer Player of the Year and is a four-time All-California Collegiate Athletic Association selection. She was also a three-time Offensive Player of the Year for the conference.
Demery expects the life lessons she learned outside the classroom – including hard work, balance and perseverance – will help her compete in the rigorous medical school environment and in her future career as a physician. “I’m going to take that work ethic wherever I go,” she said.
Demery plans to take a year off before beginning medical school. She hopes to play soccer at a higher level, but if her soccer plans fall through, she will seek an opportunity to gain experience in the medical field.
As the first Rhodes scholarship finalist and the first Walter Byers scholarship winner from Division III Emory and Henry College in Virginia, Kyle Boden likes to dream big. After medical school, the biology major and chemistry minor plans to launch a nonprofit to address orthopedic needs in developing nations.In his application essay for the Byers award, the football captain credited his experience as a student-athlete for playing “a fundamental role in helping me realize these short- and long-term goals because it has provided me with the opportunity to receive an excellent education at an institution where professors and coaches value my development as a student and individual.”
Although he admits his focus on orthopedic surgery might shift when he enters medical school, Boden’s internship with Dr. Greg Mathien, the senior team orthopedic surgeon for the University of Tennessee athletic programs, inspired him to pursue the field. “I really liked the interaction between the physician and the athlete,” he said.
As a student-athlete Boden said he learned several skills that will help him in medical school. The ability to communicate with others is one key skill he developed as team captain.
“I think it’s really important to be an effective communicator in any field,” he said, “but especially when you’re talking about being a physician because you have the responsibility of someone’s health in your hands.”
Quick to give credit to others, Boden said, “I’m representing not only myself and my family, but the entire college. For me, that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of. It’s not just the financial award that comes with the scholarship, but it’s the ability to represent a college that has truly helped change my life.”