School-record 117 student-athletes named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars

Fifteen student-athletes post perfect 4.0 GPAs in 2018-19 to continue record-setting academic year

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Led by 15 students who earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, a school-record 117 Penn State student-athletes have garnered Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Awards for the 2018-19 academic year.

The 117 honorees shatter Penn State’s previous high of 97 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars from 2016-17 and mark the third school record in the past four years in the prestigious compilation.

The Big Ten Distinguished Scholar Award is presented to student-athletes who have recorded a grade-point average of 3.7 or higher during the previous academic year. 

Penn State's four highest Big Ten Distinguished Scholar totals have come in the past four years, increasing 41% since the 2014-15 academic year (69 to 117). The 15 Nittany Lion student-athletes earning a 4.0 GPA this past year are an increase of two from last year and six above the nine perfect GPA students in 2016-17.

The 117 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars continues what has been a record-setting year for Penn State student-athletes, including a semester-record 135 Nittany Lions who graduated following the spring semester and 368 Academic All-Big Ten honorees in 2018-19 (3.0 GPA or higher).

Penn State Big Ten Distinguished Scholar totals since 2014-15 (+41%):

2018-19: 117 (school record)

2017-18: 90

2016-17: 97

2015-16: 81

2014-15: 69

The 15 Nittany Lion students who posted perfect 4.0 grade-point averages during the 2018-19 academic year were: Kerry Abello, women’s soccer; John Baldwin, men’s gymnastics; Austin Clabaugh, wrestling; Kelsey Crow, women’s hockey; Blake Gillikin, football; Blake Hodgens, baseball; Medora McCarthy, women’s fencing; Jason Nolf, wrestling; Kristen Politz, women’s gymnastics; Noah Roberson, men’s gymnastics; Jade Rowland, women’s fencing; Siena Salvaggio, women’s swimming and diving; Christopher Sands, men’s gymnastics; Nathan Smith, men’s volleyball; and Austin Thomas, men’s basketball.

Roberson was selected a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American for the second consecutive year and Abello and Gillikin earned their first CoSIDA Academic All-America recognition in 2018-19.

A total of 25 of Penn State’s 29 teams had at least one Big Ten Distinguished Scholar (men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field are combined).

Russ Mushinsky, director of the Morgan Academic Center, reported that the women's track and field team led all Penn State squads with 15 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, which includes eight members of the cross-country team (counted once among the 117). The women’s lacrosse squad was next with 10 honorees, followed by the field hockey (nine honorees), women’s cross-country, women’s soccer, and women’s swimming and diving teams (eight honorees each). The women’s fencing and football squads each had seven Distinguished Scholars.

The record 117 honorees boosts Penn State to a total of 811 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars since the program was established by the Big Ten Faculty Representatives in 2008-09 to supplement the Academic All-Big Ten program. A total of 368 Nittany Lion students earned Academic All-Big Ten accolades to break another record in 2018-19.

Similar to the Academic All-Big Ten honor, Distinguished Scholar Award recipients must be in at least their second academic year at their institution. The Distinguished Scholar Award encompasses only students with a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school.

Last Updated August 30, 2019