By Casey Maun ’14
The anxiety was high—not because Lucy Kauffman ’15 was preparing for her honors capstone presentation that night, but because she knew the phone call would come any minute.
Just as she predicted, when she finished her presentation, the anticipated missed call flashed across her phone. Immediately walking into the hallway, she called the number back.
“Are you serious? Is this a joke?” she uttered.
Kauffman, a biology major with a host of scholar-athlete awards, had just been named the twenty-seventh female NCAA Walter Byers Scholar. The $24,000 scholarship is presented to one male and one female student-athlete who demonstrate “outstanding academic achievement and potential for success in postgraduate study.”
According to Dr. Rich Zumkhawala-Cook, SU’s faculty athletics representative, “The Byers Scholarship is simply the highest award that the NCAA grants to student-athletes amongst a pool of 460,000 college students in every sport across Divisions I, II, and III. In terms of its measurement of every single facet of a student-athlete's success, leadership, and service, it makes the Heisman Trophy look trivial.”
Kauffman is not only the first-ever Walter Byers recipient from Shippensburg University, but also the first from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), and just the eighth from Division II.
“I still get goose bumps. It’s going to take a while for me to realize how big this is,” Kauffman said.
“Despite her numerous honors and years of being at the top of her academic and athletic class, Lucy is as humble as she is hard-working. Her leadership does not come from a dazzlingly loud presence, but from her willingness to do the work that is often unheralded,” said Zumkhawala-Cook, who was instrumental throughout the extensive application process. “Every group Lucy is part of becomes better because of what she brings to the organization and what she is willing to do to improve it.”
Before Ship, Kauffman was a multi-sport athlete at Northern High School in Dillsburg competing in soccer, basketball, and field hockey. But the game she found herself playing most often was simply trying to beat her older sister Danielle in everything they did.
“(Danielle) would always push me harder. When she was going to (the University of) Maryland, we would do my summer workout as the warm-up, and then we would do hers,” Kauffman said. “I watched her win two national championships, and that feeling of watching her win was unreal. I knew I wanted that.”
In 2013, the feeling was reciprocated when Kauffman and the SU field hockey team claimed the first NCAA Championship in any sport in SU history.
“Winning the national championship, that bond with the team will last forever,” Kauffman said. “You’re never going to forget the times with the girls.”
Typically, athletes dream of winning a national championship, and if they succeed, it is usually the pinnacle of their athletic career. However, Kauffman puts the Walter Byers Award atop her seemingly never-ending list of achievements as it represents of all of her accomplishments.
The NCAA describes Byers Scholars as having “the best elements of mind and body.” Kauffman said, “I’ve peaked in both my athletic and academic successes. It’s a summary of everything I’ve accomplished in one, and it leads into my future.”
With all of the boxes checked at Ship, her future lies at Salus University where she was accepted into the Doctor of Optometry program. Kauffman’s interest in optometry emerged during her sophomore year at SU when she attended a three-day optometry program at Salus.
Despite having perfect vision, the hook was set as she was drawn to the uniqueness of optometry. “It’s different to me,” Kauffman said. “You get to help people every single day and can have a huge impact on others. That’s what I like about it.”
Kauffman’s sights are set on one day starting her own practice, which she hopes is sooner than later. That shouldn’t be a problem, according to Dr. Marcie Lehman, Kauffman’s biology professor and mentor. “Lucy is a superior, committed student who strives for excellence in everything she is involved in. She sets extremely high standards for herself and works very hard to achieve any goal set before her.”
“The entire Ship family is very proud of Lucy for her outstanding accomplishment. This is a prestigious honor for Lucy and Shippensburg University,” said Dr. Jody Harpster ’74M, president. “She has masterfully balanced her role as a student-athlete, excelling on the field as a Division II national champion and in the classroom as a Ship graduate.”
Kauffman’s drive can be attributed to the values she learned from her family.
“They showed me from a young age that academics were important,” Kauffman said. “My parents (Robert Kauffman ’78-’84M-’89M and Carol Kauffman ’89M) have gone out of their way to make sure I could play the sports I loved growing up.”
With the importance of academics instilled in her, Kauffman approached her schooling in the Biology Department at SU with the same competitive nature she possessed on the field. And of course, she had to beat her sister in the classroom as well: “She got a 3.85 GPA. So I had to get a 3.91 GPA just to say ‘I beat you,’” she joked.
According to Kauffman, her success often stems from the fact that she is never satisfied. “That’s why I am who I am today. I always want to do better than I’ve done before.”