Six Seniors, Two Teams Honored By Yale Athletics Department At Senior Student-Athlete Reception

Six Seniors, Two Teams Honored By Yale Athletics Department At Senior Student-Athlete Reception

May 24, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Six seniors and two teams were honored by the Yale Athletics Department at the annual senior student-athlete reception Saturday afternoon at the Lanman Center in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The men's cross country team and the men's fencing team both earned the Brodhead Award for highest team grade point average. Jeff Dawson (St. Charles, Ill.) of the men's tennis team and Ashley Easley (Joliet, Ill.) of the women's basketball team were the recipients of the Thomas W. Ford '42 Student-Athlete Community Outreach Award. Jennifer Cohen (Woodmere, N.Y.) of the women's fencing team and Matthew Evans (Carmel, Ind.) of the lightweight crew team were the recipients of the Kiphuth Student-Athlete Distinction Award. Alex Afsahi (Oceanside, Calif.) of the men's soccer team and Kelli Buck (Bel Air, Md.) of the women's cross country and track and field teams were the recipients of the Molly Meyer Humanitarian Award.

The Brodhead Award is named in honor of Richard H. Brodhead '68, Ph.D. '72, who served as Dean of Yale College from 1993 through 2004 and was on the faculty of the department of English for more than 30 years. It, along with the Kiphuth Award, was presented by Deputy Dean of Yale College Joseph Gordon `78PhD. The men's cross country team and men's fencing team had matching 3.50 GPAs. Both teams were also among Yale's nation-leading 28 NCAA Public Recognition Award recipients. The men's cross country team also was honored by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as an All-Academic team selection, posting the sixth-highest team GPA in the country. Individually, both John Hinkle (Shelbyville, Ky.) of the cross country team and Michael Pearce (San Francisco, Calif.) of the fencing team were Academic All-Ivy League selections. The fencing team finished 10th at NCAAs, while the cross country team was seventh at IC4As.

The Ford Award, given annually to the male and female student-athletes who during their senior year have demonstrated their commitment to strengthening the relationship between Yale athletics and the youth in the New Haven community, is named in honor of Thomas W. Ford '42, who endowed the Yale Department of Athletics Community Outreach Program in the fall of 1996. It was presented by Michael Morand '87 `93MDiv, Yale's Associate Vice President of New Haven & State Affairs.

Dawson, the men's tennis team captain and a second team All-Ivy League selection, helped found New Haven Tennis Outreach, a program that partners members of the Yale tennis teams with local youths as mentors in tennis and academics. He was also a member of the Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Committee, organizing his team's participation in the annual holiday gift giving initiative and taking part in the Youth Day this past fall in which Yale student-athletes worked with local youths on sports skills. He is also a member of Dudes '09, a group of senior student-athletes who helped run events to raise money for various charities.

Dawson is a member of Morse College majoring in political science.

Easley, who played in 93 games over four years, was on the `Think Pink' Advisory Board committee, representing her team as part of an initiative that raised $5,000 for breast cancer research. She is also a member of the Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Committee and was Youth Day coordinator. Easley also earned the "Counselor of the Year" award for her work with a group of nine- and 10-year olds in Yale's National Youth Sports Program summer camp in 2008.

Easley is a member of Davenport College majoring in psychology.

The Kiphuth Award, given to the male and female student-athletes who rank highest in scholarship and have earned two varsity awards, is named in honor of DeLaney Kiphuth '41, M.A. '47. Kiphuth served as Director of Athletics from 1954 through 1976.

Cohen, a foilist, was one of two seniors on the women's fencing team. The Bulldogs had a combined finish of 10th place at the NCAA Tournament.

Cohen is a member of Morse College majoring in theater studies.

Evans and the Bulldogs are currently preparing for the IRA National Championship regatta, held during the first week of June. The Bulldogs are coming off a second-place finish in the Jope Cup standings at the EARC Sprints.

Evans is a member of Berkeley College majoring in ethics, politics and economics.

This is the inaugural year for the Meyer Award, which is named in honor of Molly Meyer, a nurse practitioner at Yale University Health Services who has been addressing the health needs of student-athletes at Yale since 1975. Meyer was on hand to present the awards Saturday. The award is given each year to a varsity athlete in the senior class "whose character exemplifies selfless devotion along with compassion and concern for their team and the community at Yale and beyond."

Afsahi, who won the soccer team's Frank Dunne Award as most improved player in 2005 after joining the team as a walk-on, has drawn praise for his positive attitude and selflessness in working both with his teammates and the community. He is on the Thomas W. Ford '42 Student-Athlete Community Outreach Committee and has frequently volunteered for events such as school visits. This past semester he has been observing and teaching lessons in the Teacher Preparation Program at Hillhouse High School in New Haven.

After graduation Afsahi intends to spend a year teaching HIV/AIDS education through soccer-related activities as part of the Grassroots Soccer Program in Cape Town, South Africa. He has significant international experience, having spent the summer of 2007 working as a tutor, mentor and soccer coach for youths at an under-staffed non-profit organization in Istanbul. He also spent the summer of 2008 conducting research in a community service project designed to study the implementation of technology in the provision of energy in the Alaskan arctic.

Afsahi is a member of Morse College majoring in history.

Buck, the women's cross country team captain and an NCAA participant in cross country, has also earned praise for her selflessness and willingness to help her teammates and others. She has been involved with Bread, a program that collects unused bread from the Yale dining halls and distributes it to soup kitchens; Demos, a Yale organization dedicated to educating local elementary students in the basic sciences; SMART, a mentoring program that provides Yale students with the opportunity to share their interests in science or math with middle school students; and numerous other initiatives such as youth days and the holiday gift giving initiative through the athletic department's Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Committee.

Buck is a member of Morse College majoring in environmental engineering.

The ceremony also included a welcome from Tom Beckett, Yale's Director of Athletics, and reflections from two members of the graduating class: Ally Mendenhall (Lincoln, Neb.) of the volleyball team and Casey Gerald (Dallas, Texas) of the football team.

A crowd of more than 700 was on hand for the event, including senior student-athletes and their families along with coaches and athletic department administrators.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity