The Walter Byers Scholarship was established in 1988 to recognize the contributions of former NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
In addition to the Walter Byers Scholarship, the NCAA offers the Jim McKay Scholarship, a $10,000 award given annually to one male and one female student-athlete, as well as the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, a $7,500 award given to 87 men and 87 women annually.
The NCAA also funds 13 $6,000 scholarships for women and 13 $6,000 scholarships for ethnic minorities. The Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Scholarships are given to those student-athletes who are enrolling in curriculum that will lead to a career in sports administration. Six of the scholarships are available to Division III students only.
More than 8 out of 10 NCAA student-athletes earn bachelor’s degrees and more than a quarter earn postgraduate degrees. Almost 10,000 former student-athletes have returned to school in the past eight years and earned undergraduate degrees after exhausting their intercollegiate athletics eligibility.
The NCAA has selected South Dakota track and field student-athlete Alexa Duling and Winthrop soccer student-athlete Matt Horn as the 2013 Walter Byers Scholars. Duling and Horn each will receive a renewable $24,000 postgraduate scholarship.
The Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship is awarded annually to one male and one female student-athlete in recognition of outstanding academic achievement and potential for future success. To be eligible for consideration, a nominee must be a graduating senior or enrolled in graduate study at an NCAA member institution. Winners must have attained an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5, competed on a varsity team at an NCAA member school, evidenced superior character and leadership, and demonstrated that participation in athletics and community service positively influenced the recipient’s personal and intellectual development.
The program is administered by a committee of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences. The winners were selected through a competitive process that included in-person interviews with six finalists—three men and three women.
Alexa Duling is in her fifth year at South Dakota, where she majored in biology with a minor in economics and is finishing her MBA. She maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA and will attend University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.
Duling, a member of South Dakota’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), competed in indoor and outdoor track and field and qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 400m hurdles. She placed 12th in the 400m hurdles at the NCAA championships and was an Academic All-American in 2012.
“Running at the University of South Dakota has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said the Gregory, South Dakota native. “Not only have I been able to accomplish many of my goals on the track, but I have also learned that the qualities rooted in my sport—discipline, preparation, confidence, and teamwork—are extremely important in everyday life. These qualities carry over to becoming a successful medical student and physician.”
In addition to her accomplishments on and off the field, Duling is a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run, hospice volunteer and lector at her local diocese. She also participates in various service activities through her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
During her undergraduate career Duling shadowed several physicians. Observing a physician at the Indian Health Service hospital on the Rosebud Reservation ignited a passion for serving that community and Duling plans to return to the reservation to serve patients in need of skilled care.
“I have had some truly phenomenal experiences on the reservations in South Dakota,” she said. “Even though the reservations in South Dakota face the worst health effects of poverty, there is enduring hope and potential rooted in the Native American culture. This atmosphere of healing has completely captivated me.”
Winthrop soccer student-athlete Matt Horn majored in biology and chemistry as an undergraduate, maintaining a 3.93 GPA. He is now in his first year of medical school at North Carolina, near his hometown of Mooresville.
Horn credits his Christian faith with giving him the perseverance to pursue this scholarship. “I’m really passionate about medical school and being a doctor in the future. I always thought the scholarship was a terrific opportunity,” he said.
Horn was the Eagles’ team captain for two years and was a 2010 Big South Conference All-American and Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was a 2011 Lowe’s Senior CLASS candidate and was selected as a Capital One Academic All-American that same year.
He served as a member of the Division I national SAAC and was a representative on several NCAA committees.
Horn said his experience as a student-athlete prepared him for the rigors of medical school. Although challenging, Horn said his first year of medical school has been “really excellent.” He hopes to specialize in either orthopedic surgery or family medicine and believes the strong academic and clinical foundation he is receiving at North Carolina will prepare him for this future.
He credits his experience as a student-athlete with teaching him how to focus on his own talents, through which Horn said he learned humility and the importance of not comparing himself to others.
“In school there’s always going to be someone that’s a little bit smarter than you and on the field there’s always going to be someone that’s a little bit better than you. I think not focusing on what other people are blessed with, but focusing on what your talents are and trying to maximize that, is what I’ve tried to focus on,” he said.
Horn said he also learned time management in his undergraduate career. Being a student-athlete means adhering to a demanding daily schedule that includes going to class, working out, practice and studying, he said. “It’s a very tight regime, so it makes you focus on getting things done fast and doing a good job and not wasting your time. That’s really helped me out a lot here.”
Horn said he was very humbled by the other finalists and said the experience of interviewing for the Byers scholarship was extremely positive. It was gratifying for Horn to hear the other finalists’ dreams and share his own.
Horn calls the Byers scholarship the “most unbelievable award I’ve ever received” and says it’s made even more special because of the bonds he’s formed with the other finalists, members of NCAA committees and national office staff.
“The fact is,” he said, “receiving the Walter Byers Scholarship is most gratifying because it honors the incredible people who have selflessly supported me in my journey.”
Hometown: Kenai, Alaska
School: Western Washington
Undergraduate major: Spanish/elementary education
Graduate plans: Master of sport science
Coon was a member of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 NCAA Division II national champion rowing teams and was a 2010 NCAA Woman of the Year Top-30 honoree. She was an at-large member of the 2009 ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team and was Western Washington’s co-female athlete of the decade. Coon is currently an assistant rowing coach at Portland.
Hometown: Homer Glen, Illinois
School: Washington U. in St. Louis
Undergraduate major: Biomedical engineering
Sports: Cross country and track and field
Graduate plans: Medical school at the University of Pennsylvania
Phillips was the 2012 NCAA Woman of the Year and three-time NCAA Elite 89 Award winner. A seven-time All-American, she was a team captain who helped lead her team to the 2011 NCAA Division III cross country championship. She holds the school record in the 1,500m and the University Athletic Association record in the mile. She was named the 2012 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year for Division III women’s track and field/cross country, a 2011 and 2012 Capital One/CoSIDA first-team All-American and a member of the 2011 Division III women’s cross country Scholar Team of the Year. The University Athletic Association named her a four-time President’s Scholar Athlete and a nine-time All-Academic team member.
Hometown: Lindenhurst, Illinois
Undergraduate major: Mathematics and physics with a minor in astronomy
Graduate plans: Ph.D. in applied physics mechanical engineering or materials engineering
Burg was a 2013 Rhodes Scholarship finalist. He was the baseball team captain in 2013 and received the Colonial Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Academic award in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He is a member of the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society and the Golden Key International Honor Society. He received the Friedrich Gauss Award for Excellence in Mathematics in 2010.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
School: Northern Illinois
Undergraduate major: Accountancy
Graduate plans: Master’s degree in accountancy
Jefferson was a recipient of the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award finalist in 2012. He was a member of the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team in 2012. Jefferson was elected to the Academic All-Mid-American Conference Football Team in 2010 and 2011. He was voted “Mr. Victor E. Huskie” by Northern Illinois University Athletics and was elected to the football team’s leadership council in 2010, 2011 and 2012.