STEP UP TO 25K CHALLENGE -- Lake Superior State University's track and cross-country squads form up support with Vice President for Student Affairs Ken Peress, center, LSSU President Betty Youngblood, and track/cross country coach Steve Eles for a scholarship that benefits the team. A gift from Peress of $1,000 a year for the next five years kick-starts a challenge to LSSU track and cross-country alumni everywhere to endow the scholarship at $25,000 by 2012. Anyone may contribute by calling LSSU's Assistant Director of Athletics Tom Coates at 906-635-6670, or by e-mailing him here.(Photo by John Shibley)
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MEDIA CONTACTS: Tom Pink, 906/635-2315; John Shibley, 635-2314; Tom Coates, 635-6670
SAULT STE. MARIE – A newly established scholarship will benefit the Lake Superior State University cross country and track teams, but the ultimate goal of the 25K Challenge fund-raising drive is to show that it takes strength in numbers, not big bucks, to make a big difference at LSSU.
The 25K Challenge is a project initiated by LSSU Vice President for Student Affairs Ken Peress and will eventually provide an endowed scholarship for the Laker cross country and track teams. Peress is contributing $1,000 a year for the next five years to establish the scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time in spring 2008. The goal is to raise enough funds to reach an endowment level of $25,000 over the next five years.
“With the number of athletes in our program and alumni, even small donations will go a long way,” LSSU track/cross country coach Steve Eles said.
The LSSU cross country and track rosters include 50-70 student-athletes annually, however only 8.2 scholarships are awarded each year. By comparison, a fully funded men’s and women’s track and field/cross country program has 25.2 scholarships. Team members also raise funds for basic operating needs, earning up to $17,000 each year through Chuck-a-Puck at hockey games, the Turkey Trot and Cabin Fever road races, high school meets and a weekend concessions stint at Cedar Point in Ohio.
“Ken is always praising us for what we’ve accomplished with what we have,” Eles said. “This is really nice. He doesn’t have a running or track background, but he likes to see our energy on campus. I have to give a lot of credit to our athletes for being good students. The biggest thing we’ve done is turn the corner with academics (the 2007 Laker men’s and women’s track programs were ranked 10th and 17th, nationally, in team GPA). Some of our athletes have performed very well recently, earning all-conference, all-region and all-America status.”
Peress, who has been LSSU’s vice president of student affairs for the past seven months after serving as dean of students at Wilmington College (Ohio), set up a similar scholarship at LSSU for campus leadership. After spending most of his career working at private schools, he said he hopes to nurture a “culture of giving” at LSSU.
Peress and Eles predict that, with the help of widespread support from team members, their families, the LSSU staff and friends of Laker Athletics, the 25K Challenge can be met without taking away from other fund-raising projects.
“I was really impressed with how much they do to raise money,” Peress said. “This group really works hard, and it’s nice to be able to help them out. I was a jogger many years ago and learned that it wasn’t for me. But I understand the commitment required to excel. While track is not considered a team sport, the camaraderie I have seen with our student-athletes is such that the team is just like a family.”
The scholarship recipient must have earned a 3.0 GPA or higher and must have not received any other athletic financial aid.
“Essentially, the recipient will be a walk-on,” Eles said. “You can almost guarantee that this will be a nice surprise to the person who receives it. It will be similar to our Chris Yanni Scholarship, and our athletes are always ecstatic when they receive it.”
The 25K Challenge follows a recent campaign, during which $300,000 was raised to replace the Cooper Gym floor. Kris Dunbar, LSSU’s director of athletics, noted that Laker athletics has received generous support from a loyal group of donors and is working hard to expand its donor list. In an era of massive budget cuts, fund-raising is an increasingly important component in the athletic program’s survival, Dunbar said.
“We are lucky to have a guy like Ken Peress at LSSU,” Dunbar said. “We appreciate his enthusiasm for our student-athletes, his generosity and the example he is setting. I’m confident that alumni, LSSU faculty and staff, and the local community will follow suit and support the programs for which they are passionate. I’m thrilled that we are able to reward the cross country and track teams that have worked hard for everything they have. They have accomplished so much with limited resources.”
To contribute to the 25K Challenge or to get more information, contact the LSSU Foundation, 906-635-2665, or LSSU Assistant Director of Athletics Tom Coates, 906-635-6670; e-mail him. –LSSU-