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Widener Student-Athletes Achieving on the Field and in the Classroom

Alie Alkins (center), captain of the softball team, earned First Team CoSIDA Academic All-American honors and graduated in May as valedictorian of the class of 2016. 

Widener University is known for its athletic accomplishments on the field of play, but the prowess of its student-athletes in the classroom last year may be the most impressive accomplishment of all.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, 311 Widener student-athletes made the Middle Atlantic Conference Academic Honor Roll, a school-record 33 students were named Academic All-Middle Atlantic Conference, 22 student-athletes were recognized as Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area, and three students were named CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.

In addition, Widener student-athletes lit up the academic scoreboard with 43 students achieving perfect 4.0 grade point averages, which topped all schools in the conference. Also impressive is what the majority of students-athletes are studying. According to team rosters, 66 percent of Widener students athletes are enrolled in challenging STEM or health care related majors such as engineering, nursing, pre-physical therapy, biology, accounting or finance.

“It’s gratifying to have the success we’ve had on the field and to compete for championships, but seeing our student-athletes achieve at such a high level in the classroom is especially rewarding,” said Widener Director of Athletics Jack Shafer. “It shows that we are not only preparing them for success on the field or on the court, but also for success in their careers and in life.”

Widener University President Julie E. Wollman praised the efforts of the student-athletes on the conference, regional, and national academic accolades. “Our student-athletes should take great pride in what they have been able to accomplish academically,” Wollman said. “It is a demonstration of their discipline, focus and commitment in the classroom just as they demonstrate these qualities in their sports. Everyone in the university community is certainly very proud of them.”

Academic All-American Thomas ZamorskiShafer said he attributes the academic success to the coaching staff recruiting not only good athletes, but also strong students. The fact that there are so many students on teams with similar majors also helps. For example, 21 of the 59 students on the men’s outdoor track and field team this past year were engineering majors. The team has won five consecutive conference championships, and this year set a league record with five student-athletes named Academic All-Middle Atlantic Conference Honorees. In addition, one of two First Team CoSIDA Academic All-Americans was track and field athlete Thomas Zamorski of Frenchtown, N.J., who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

“I attribute a lot of my success and the success of others in both areas to hard work,” Zamorski said, “but even with hard work, you can’t get anywhere unless you have the support of others to push you to the next level. In addition to getting support from people like my parents, coaches and teammates, I also had professors wishing me good luck in my meets and providing encouragement. You need lots of different people supporting you in order to be successful, and we all definitely have that at Widener.”

“The student-athletes have established a culture on this team that once dinner is over, they don’t go back to the dorm rooms and play video games, they go to the library or to study session together,” said Vince Touey, head men’s track and field coach. “These guys are the result of a culture of athletes who came before them who made academics a priority and were able to transfer the character they built to gain athletic as well as academic success.”

The same goes for the softball team, 72 percent of who were pre-physical therapy or engineering majors. They had three team members named to the Academic All-MAC team, the most in the conference. They also finished the season with a 31-11 record, the best season in program history.

Student-Athlete Academic Accolades"Academics are the cornerstone to athletics,” said long-time Head Softball Coach Fred Dohrmann. “Our student-athletes who are a part of our softball program have done an incredible job of balancing the two and finding success in both areas while also fulfilling the school's mission of supporting the community through civic engagement. They are role models who lead by example, and they serve as outstanding ambassadors for Widener University."

Perhaps no one on the team personified that better than Alie Alkins. The Aston, Pa. resident was captain of the team and earned First Team CoSIDA Academic All-American honors. She also graduated in May as valedictorian of the class of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and special education.

“Coach Dohrmann always used the phrase books before bats and said that school comes first,” Alkins said. “The support and encouragement we have from coaches and staff in the athletics department as well as professors to be successful in all areas is outstanding.”

WidenerUniversity is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. are proud to be tobacco free. Visit the university website,