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The Scholar-Athletes

The Student Experience

The choices of Missy Swindel and Anthony Rebyanski as IUP’s inaugural Scholar-Athlete of the Year award winners were perfect. After all, their transcripts were.

Scholar athletes

President Tony Atwater with Melissa Swindel and Anthony Rebyanksi. Photo: Keith Boyer

Swindel, a sweeper back on the soccer team, fashioned a cumulative 4.0 grade-point average through seven semesters, and Rebyanski, a pitcher-outfielder on the baseball team, compiled a 4.0 in the fall semester. They were selected by President Tony Atwater, who presented the awards at a Crimson Club dinner the week of graduation.

“As a new president, it is important to me that the community understand that our outstanding athletes are also outstanding students,” Atwater said. “This occasion provides me with the opportunity to highlight that fact.” 

The recipients were caught unawares by the honor. They attended the dinner as senior representatives of their respective teams and were taken aback when athletic director Frank Condino asked them to come forward.

“I was contacted about three days before,” said Swindel, a resident of Toledo, Ohio, who graduated from the Robert E. Cook Honors College in May. “They’re like, oh, by the way, you might want to be there. I was like, OK. I was extremely happy to get the award.”

As was Rebyanski, a communications major from Shelocta, Pa. Especially since he wasn’t expecting it.

“I went to the banquet not knowing a thing,” said Rebyanski, who hopes to enter the sports broadcasting field after graduating in 2006. “When Dr. Condino started talking about the guy on the baseball team, I’m like, wait a minute, I’m the only one here who’s on the baseball team. I didn’t have a clue that I was even being considered for the award. I’m pretty happy that I was chosen for it.”

Rebyanski went 4-4 in his final season of eligibility, struck out a team-leading fifty-five batters in forty-four innings, batted .339, and slugged four home runs. He wrapped up his career with thirteen wins and 163 strikeouts, the fourth-highest total in IUP history.

Swindel was instrumental in the success of a soccer team that established a school record for victories (nineteen), won the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship, and made the program’s first NCAA Division II tournament appearance. She was named an ESPN the Magazine College Division first-team Academic All-American; was a first-team selection on the CoSIDA Academic All-District II squad, which included players from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia; and was a three-time PSAC Scholar Athlete. Swindel was also presented the Foundation for IUP Community Volunteer Service award in her role as founder and president of Access IUP, a program designed to motivate struggling ninth-grade students.

Meanwhile, she kept earning A’s despite a challenging course load: majors in political science and history, with minors in pre-law and Latin American studies. But Swindel didn’t mind the demands of cramming classes, soccer, and volunteer work into days that never seemed to have enough hours. Fact is, she relished her college experience.

“I’m from Toledo, and I had no idea what IUP was and what it was about. I had never even heard of IUP,” said Swindel, who has enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. “I’m just so happy they recruited me to come here. Every moment at IUP has been amazing.”