Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour, standing on crutches after a knee operation, couldn’t hop up on the mechanical lift as originally planned — but she was just as proud admiring from below.
Penn State athletics unveiled its new academic totals at the Morgan Academic Center on Monday night. The numbers, displayed high on the building’s north wall, show graduation rate (89 percent), all-time Academic All-Big Ten honorees (5,654), and all-time CoSIDA Academic All-Americans (195) through the fall semester.
“It’s part of Penn State’s DNA,” Barbour said of academic success. “It’s part of our success with honor. It’s part of who we are. It’s always been a part of our culture and the standard here.”
Penn State’s 89 percent graduation rate, announced by the NCAA in November, is one percentage point higher than 2015 and one off the school’s record.
During the fall semester, a total of 78 student-athletes were selected as Academic All-Big Ten honorees for having a 3.0 GPA or higher. Two of those Nittany Lions — football’s Tyler Yazujian and women’s volleyball’s Haleigh Washington — took home CoSIDA Academic All-America accolades for the second straight year.
Washington, along with Yazujian and NCAA faculty representative Linda Caldwell, rode a mechanical lift to update the three numbers.
Admittedly, it was a tad frightening for the 2014 national champion.
“It was a little scary, not going to lie,” Washington said with a laugh. “But it was awesome. I was incredibly honored and humbled that they wanted me to do it.”
Yazujian said he was thankful to be included in the celebration, as well, and spoke highly of the Morgan Academic Center. The building, which opened last June next to the Lasch Football Building in place of the former Greenberg Ice Pavilion, is a hub for Penn State’s student-athletes with learning spaces, academic counselors and conference rooms.
“It’s tough,” Yazujian said. “There are a lot of hours lost with workouts, meetings, studying the playbook, film and all that good stuff. But student comes first, and you have to put in as much, if not more, work in the classroom. Having a space like this helps us do that.”
Barbour echoed Yazujian, praising the student-athletes’ day-in, day-out efforts.
And as for those numbers, the athletic director is certainly pleased — but she yearns for further improvement.
“It’s something that needs constant care and feeding,” Barbour said. “It’s a very conscious effort every day. We wouldn’t be who we are without that duality of success.”