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Celebration of 40th anniversary highlights Division III week


Division III week inspires high school’s celebration

This year’s Division III Week is a celebration of current student-athletes and gives a nod to the past through the division’s celebration of its 40th anniversary year.

But the annual event also inspired one high school’s celebration of the future. It recently held a ceremony honoring prospective football student-athletes who will be enrolling at four Division III institutions next year.
Three of the students from Woodcreek High School in Roseville, Calif., plan to enroll at Frostburg State, Lewis and Clark, and Cal Lutheran, respectively. A fourth student still is deciding between two Division III schools in California.

“DIII is an outstanding choice and opportunity, and we are going to be promoting DIII also,” said the organizer of the event, Maggie Walker, whose son is among the Division III-bound teens.

One of the future student-athletes plans to major in electrical engineering, while two others are interested in environmental studies.

The third annual Division III Week, held April 7-13, will be a celebration fueled by the energy of nearly 180,000 student-athletes who compete at member schools. But this year’s event is also recalling the division’s history.

The celebration is the crowning event of Division III’s 40th anniversary year, which has celebrated the division’s past through recognition of achievements made by former student-athletes since their graduation and by remembering historic milestones. Several schools are making the anniversary part of their Division III Week celebrations through programming and promotional materials.

Many schools are planning multiple events during the week in response to the annual national call to celebrate student-athletes’ academic accomplishments, athletic achievements and wide-ranging participation in campus activities and community service.

Dozens of schools have reported plans to the NCAA Division III staff or otherwise publicized programs – including events on several campuses that occurred before the official celebration began.  Division III encourages member institutions to make their observance of National STUDENT-Athlete Day part of their Division III Week schedule.

Here are some examples of how Division III schools are celebrating:



The 40th anniversary is part of plans at MacMurray, which, like many other schools, will be using social media to promote activities during the week. Those plans include hourly posts during the five weekdays of the celebration for a total of 40 posts about accomplishments of student-athletes. MacMurray athletics director Scott McClure said the school also hopes to recruit “a minimum of 40 volunteers” to participate in a community clean-up day.



Washington & Lee took advantage of Division III Week to create a video recounting the history of its athletics program, while SUNY Oneonta is hosting 2010 Red Dragon All-American wrestler and Academic All-America honoree Josh Wake, who now is chief financial officer at Chobani Yogurt.

“Josh will be talking, in an open Q&A format, about his student-athlete experience and how the lessons learned as a student-athlete have helped him succeed post-graduation,” said Geoff Hassard, assistant director of athletics and sports information director at the school. Washington & Lee will also promote Division III Week with a video featuring SUNY Oneonta athletics director Tracy Ranieri and current student-athletes.



As has happened in previous years, many schools are introducing new videos during Division III Week, including Kenyon, which shared excerpted comments of featured student-athletes via Twitter during the production of its video. Those comments include:

  • “You can choose your own path at a Division 3 school” (Sierra De Leon, volleyball and track).
  • “I didn’t expect to find a family, but that is what I found with my team” (Dal Shen, cross country).
  • “Choosing a school and then deciding to play athletics after that choice is a unique perspective to D3” (Susie Gurzenda, field hockey and lacrosse).



Many schools will share student-athlete profiles, information about teams and other material on video screens in student centers, including Geneva. But that school also is promoting the week in a less high-tech way. It painted the words “NCAA Division III Week” on a large decorative rock on campus and shared the image via Twitter.



Division III’s partnership with Special Olympics also will be featured at many schools, including: Baldwin-Wallace and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who hosted activities in the days leading up to Division III Week; Westminster (Pennsylvania), which will host a county basketball tournament and appreciation picnic; Wheaton (Massachusetts), which will host a clinic; and Massachusetts-Dartmouth, which will sponsor a road race with proceeds going to Special Olympics.

“This is a perfect example of athletes being leaders in the community service world,” said UMass-Dartmouth SAAC president and football student-athlete Michael Thomas. “(The race) is something that we have worked to get the university involved with. We are going to have our chancellor and various other big names of our university present.”



Other organizations will benefit from Division III Week activities as well, including The Children’s Institute of Verona, N.J., as FDU-Florham hosts a clinic for children with autism and Aspberger’s syndrome, as well as a local care facility near Keuka, which will conduct a “Pink Week” to raise breast cancer awareness.



Several schools also are involving faculty members in events, including Eastern Connecticut State, which is holding a Faculty Mentor Forum to discuss the school’s program to encourage interaction between professors and student-athletes. Alfred State, East Texas Baptist, McDaniel, Saint Vincent and Texas-Tyler have planned appreciation activities for faculty and staff.

Goucher’s dean of students plans to send an email to all faculty, staff and students discussing the importance of athletics at the school and asking all to print out and display an attached graphic portraying activities of Gopher student-athletes.

Trine and Wilson will host “integration” seminars, bringing together students (including non-athletes), faculty, staff, coaches and administrators to discuss efforts on those campuses to positively integrate intercollegiate athletics into campus life.



In addition to the wide array of programs focusing on the Division III student-athlete experience and educational and community-service activities, the week also serves another function. Some planners say it simply is a rare opportunity to bring together student-athletes from all sports to participate together in events ranging from talent contests to fashion shows to game nights.

“We don’t ever have a chance to gather all of our teams in one place for a social event, and this is a great reason to,” Jane Evans, John Carroll assistant director of athletics for external operations, told the Carroll News in explaining one of that campus’s reasons for participating in Division III Week.

Frostburg State plans a picnic, tug-of-war competition, trivia night and other activities for its student-athletes.

“DIII Week is a great time for everyone involved at Frostburg, not just the student-athletes,” said Noah Becker, director of athletic communications. “I, for one, have a blast throughout the week watching the student-athletes compete at something other than their respective sports.”