Thursday, May 24, 2018

And The Nominees Are ...

Can it really be time for another Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards banquet?

Well, technically it isn't time yet. There are still seven days to go until the banquet, which is a week from tonight at the Grad College.

And yet really? Basically a whole year has gone by already?

TigerBlog used to measure time by the Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) kickoff luncheon, the one where the former school president would say every year "I predict all of our teams will be undefeated this year."

Each time TB went to one of those, he'd think to himself "how has another year gone by already?"

Now he has that same feeling for the awards banquet here. It seems like yesterday that John Thompson was speaking, and yet that wasn't even last year, that was two years ago already.

The first PVC banquet was held in Jadwin Gym. It was a really small gathering, one to which TB was not invited. It's the only one of the banquets he's missed, and the one coming up next week will be the 21st.

Gary, the former Ford Family Director of Athletics, has been at every banquet. TB doesn't think anyone else has. Maybe a head coach who's been around that long. TB will look into it.

The evening has certainly evolved a great deal from the days of a handful of people in Jadwin. Now it's a huge event, one that requires nearly year-round planning.

TigerBlog is a big fan of the format of the last few years, where finalists for the Roper Trophy (outstanding senior male athlete) and von Kienbusch Award (outstanding senior female athlete) are announced in advance, with the winner named at the banquet.

In fact, those announcements are coming today. New this year will be a roll out of the finalists on Princeton's athletic social media outlets beginning at 11 with the women and then the men at 2, and then the list of finalists will be on

The first banquet announcement came yesterday, with the story about the 2018 winners of the Class of 1967 Citizen Athlete Award and the Marvin Bressler Award.

Let's start with Marv.

First of all, Marv has been gone for nearly eight years now. He was 87 when he passed away, after a long career as a sociology professor here and as the person who can be called Princeton's first Academic Athletic Fellow.

TigerBlog always liked Marv, from the time he first met him at some Princeton men's basketball game, or afterwards in Conte's, about 30 years or so ago. Marv loved to talk and loved to listen and loved to challenge you based on what you said and then loved to follow up your follow up, and so on.

The award that is named for him goes each year to someone who does what Marv did, and that's offer any and all support for Princeton's athletes. In Marv's words, as he'd often say, he viewed his role as offering "an adult" to the students, "an adult they could go to when they needed an adult."

This year's winner is DovWeinryb Grohsgal. Marv would approve.

Dov has worked tirelessly on any and all matters related to Princeton's athletes from his former spot in the Office of the Dean of the College. And by tirelessly, TigerBlog feels like that can be used literally, since he doubts Dov ever sleeps much.

TB emailed Dov the other day for something small. It was past 10 when TigerBlog sent the email; it was about 10 minutes later that Dov got back. Then he followed up again first thing in the morning.

Then there is the Class of 1967 Citizen Athlete Award winner. This award is given to someone for outstanding contribution to sport and society.

This year's winner is Denna Laing. You've probably heard of her story.

Denna is a 2014 grad who was an All-Ivy League and ECAC All-Academic women's hockey player while at Princeton. She was good enough to play in the women's professional leagues, and she was playing in the Women's Winter Classic in Foxboro when on New Year's Eve 2015 she suffered a spinal cord injury that has left her in a wheelchair since.

That, though, is not what defines her. No, it's her spirit, which continues to amaze anyone who meets her, hears her speak or simply learns about her.

She continues to attack her situation, exploring any and all options that could help her one day walk again. And in the meantime? She continues to live her life.

For instance, she completed the Boston Marathon, pushed in her chair by former NHL star Bobby Carpenter. She works. She continues rehab. She travels.

Mostly what she does is inspire. And serve as a role model for others who are faced with the same daily challenge she is.

TB's colleagues at the PVC asked Denna for a picture to use, and she sent back one of her being honored by the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation. She's dressed up, in her chair, her hand at the control. Her head is turned slightly, and she is smiling, or perhaps laughing at something someone else has just said.

Hey, that picture alone is inspirational. There's an obstacle here? A huge, catastrophic one?

Keep fighting.

But don't let it beat you. There's still a lot to smile about.

The current Ford Family Director of Athletics, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, mentioned that she thinks that Denna's athletic training has helped her, physically and mentally, to deal with what has happened.

Citizen athlete. Think there's anyone who fits the description of that award better?

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