In August, we welcomed the largest group of first-year student-athletes in St. Ambrose history.
Of course, we were equally excited to welcome new students to participate in theatre and music, write for The Buzz and anchor a Dateline SAU newscast, and/or become active in student government and Campus Ministry. Those are just a few examples of the many ways our students engage in extracurricular activities that are essential to a full college experience.
Still, we recognize the vast interest athletics hold today for so many young people and their families. That is why, over the past decade, we strategically added more varsity sports and new facilities in hopes of attracting student-athletes to St. Ambrose.
Make no mistake. Our Fighting Bees are textbook examples of what it means to be a student-athlete. I am extremely proud St. Ambrose has led the nation in the total number of NAIA scholar-teams in each of the past two years. Last year, we had two Bees named Academic All-Americans, 77 who earned NAIA scholar-athlete status, and 161 named to academic all-conference teams.
Also last year, St. Ambrose was one of four programs to earn a second consecutive perfect scorecard in the NAIA Champions of Character program. Because this program celebrates sportsmanship, community service and academics, this is a truly proud achievement.
When I became president in 2007, 450 SAU student-athletes competed in 19 varsity sports. This year, nearly 850 student-athletes will participate in 29 programs. Today's student-athletes also have access to excellent facilities such as the Wellness and Recreation Center, the St. Vincent's Athletic Complex and the Ambrose Dome.
This decade of growth has very much been a team endeavor-involving coaches, athletes, administrators, and our Board of Trustees. Ray Shovlain '79, '82 MBA-athletics director since 1994 and men's head basketball coach since 1982-has played the pivotal role in this growth. For myself and so many others, Ray's commitment to St. Ambrose and our student-athletes has been invaluable.
Earlier this year, after consulting with Ray, we agreed that this expanded department will require the attention of a full-time Athletics Director. We have launched a national search to fill that position.
Ray has opted to remain with basketball, the sport that brought him to St. Ambrose as a student-athlete himself. In November, he began his 35th season as men's head basketball coach. Ray also will continue to teach business courses and direct the Leadership Academy, a program he created to promote St. Ambrose University's mission values of service and social justice among athletes.
We are grateful for Ray's dedicated leadership of our Athletics Department and eager to watch as ‘Coach Ray' adds to a career victory total that ranked 76th among all men's college basketball coaches at any level as this season began. We also are excited to see what the future holds for ensuing generations of SAU student-athletes.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD