COLCHESTER, Vt. - Student-athletes were recognized with both of Saint Michael's College's major senior awards during the school's 114th Commencement on Thursday in outdoor ceremonies at the Durick Library green.
Baseball pitcher Alex Mendez (Fallon, Nev./Churchill County) won the Father Prevel Memorial Award, while women's lacrosse midfielder Ashley Turner (Monkton, Vt./Mount Abraham Union) earned the Katherine Fairbanks Memorial Award, also finishing as one of five seniors with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. Both were honored last week with the Department of Athletics' Roger F. Keleher '15 Award as the class' top scholar-athletes.
The Prevel Award is given to an outstanding student in the graduating class who has maintained a high level of academic achievement over four years, and has demonstrated commitment to the intellectual, social and moral values of the College by numerous and exemplary contributions to the life of the campus community. Mendez carries a 3.82 GPA as a political science and philosophy double major and criminal justice minor, having also served as co-chair of mental health organization Hope Happens Here (HHH) as a senior.
An anchor of the starting pitching staff since the beginning of his career, Mendez struck out 83 batters during 111.2 innings, with 21 of his 23 appearances coming as a starter. He led the team in strikeouts as a senior, fanning 26 in 30 frames. A long-time resident assistant and a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Dean's List student qualified seven times for the Northeast-10 Conference Academic Honor Roll and twice for Division 2 Athletics Directors Association (D2 ADA) Academic Achievement Awards. Mendez has been inducted into the Chi Alpha Sigma (college athlete), Delta Epsilon Sigma (Catholic college) and Pi Sigma Alpha (political science) honor societies, serving as vice president of the Saint Michael's chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha.
Turner continues a remarkable run of academic success by student-athletes at Commencement, becoming the third in four years to earn the Fairbanks Award, which is given to an outstanding student in the graduating class. The recipient must maintain a high level of academic achievement over four years, and demonstrate commitment to the intellectual, social and moral values of the College by numerous and exemplary contributions to the life of the campus community. Women's basketball player Emily Ferreri '19 and cross country runner Roxy Withers '18 earned the honor upon their graduation, as well as being named valedictorians. Jessica Barnett '17, who played softball as a first-year and sophomore, won the Fairbanks Award in 2017.
Turner is not only the top academic in the graduating class but has been heavily involved around campus. She has a 4.0 GPA as a biology major on a pre-medicine track, minoring in both anthropology and chemistry, and was the 2020 NE10 Elite 24 award winner thanks to having the highest GPA among all women's lacrosse players in the league. The Dean's List student has landed a pair of D2 ADA Academic Achievement Awards while qualifying six times for the NE10 Academic Honor Roll, studying traditional Chinese medicine while traveling abroad during her other semester. Turner has been a member of SAAC and HHH, served on the Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Fame Committee, been an Orientation leader and a Pre-Orientation Weekend (POW) leader, and worked with Green Up SMC. A member of four honor societies, Turner was inducted into Beta Beta Beta (biology), Chi Alpha Sigma (college athlete), Delta Epsilon Sigma (Catholic college) and Phi Beta Kappa (liberal arts). She has also been part of a team on campus studying the brains of Central American Wandering Spiders through a NASA research grant.
The Athletics influence was felt elsewhere at Commencement, as women's ice hockey senior MacRae McCarthy (Ithaca, N.Y./Syracuse Nationals) served as vice president of the Class of 2021. The 2020-21 yearbook was dedicated to student leader Vanessa Bonebo '21, whose father Michel '90 starred on the men's basketball team in the late 1980s, with his 365 blocked shots still among the most in the history of the region.