Downs, McKenna Earn Roger F. Keleher '15 Award, Athletic Department's Oldest Honor

Downs, McKenna Earn Roger F. Keleher '15 Award, Athletic Department's Oldest Honor

Award Winner Photos

COLCHESTER, Vt. - Saint Michael's College men's cross country senior James Downs (Winchester, Mass./Winchester) and women's tennis senior Elly McKenna (Lowell, Mass./Lowell Catholic) were both presented with the Roger F. Keleher '15 Award on Thursday during a senior ceremony in Alliot Student Center. The duo drew the Department of Athletics' oldest annual award, which has been earned by outstanding scholar-athletes of the College's graduating class who maintain high scholastic averages since 1954.

Downs returned to form this year after appearing in only one race as a sophomore and junior. He was among the Purple Knights' scorers at all six races as a senior captain, taking 25th overall at the Aldrich Invitational and sixth during the Vermont Intercollegiate Championship. Downs nabbed the Purple and Gold's sixth scoring position at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship and set a 10K personal record (36:04.7) at the NCAA East Regional Championship, when he was the fifth Purple Knight to cross the finish line.

Downs carries a 3.99 cumulative grade-point average as a triple major in English, history and religious studies, with a minor in medieval studies. The Dean's List and Honors student qualified for the NE10 Academic Honor Roll each of his first seven semesters and landed a pair of Division 2 Athletics Directors Association (D2 ADA) Academic Achievement Awards. Downs has been involved with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), Edmundite Campus Ministry, VITA peer ministry and Founders Society, and has served as an Admission open house coordinator, tour guide, writing coach, teaching assistant and researcher. He holds membership in the Chi Alpha Sigma (college athlete), Phi Alpha Theta (history) and Theta Alpha Kappa (religion) honor societies. Following graduation, Downs will join Washington, D.C.-based National Journal as a copy editor.

McKenna competed in her first full season with the women's tennis squad in two years by leading the Purple Knights in doubles wins (3) and holding down a regular role in the singles lineup for the first time, winning four times in the No. 4 position. The second-year captain also paced the team in total victories (7).

McKenna totes a 3.97 GPA as a double major in media studies, journalism & digital arts and Spanish, while minoring in business administration. A Dean's List student and Honors mentor, McKenna was the College's SAAC co-vice president during the fall and co-president in the spring, also serving as an NE10 SAAC representative, and is a Spanish Club executive board member. She has been a lector and eucharistic minister in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel, Orientation leader, Founders Society ambassador, Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) CORE team member, and Her Campus SMCVT writer. McKenna has served as a peer note taker and Admission tour guide since her first year, and as a Statistics Department grader for three years. While studying abroad in spring 2021, McKenna was an English teaching assistant at Universidad de Sevilla in Spain. A member of the Chi Alpha Sigma (college athlete), Delta Epsilon Sigma (Catholic college), Kappa Tau Alpha (journalism & media studies) and Phi Beta Kappa (liberal arts & sciences) national honor societies, McKenna has earned 10 career national and league academic honors. Following graduation, she will return to Spain as an English language and culture assistant at a primary school in Madrid.

The Keleher Award was established in 1954 by the Connecticut Valley Alumni Chapter to honor Roger Keleher, a Springfield, Mass., native. A member of the Class of 1915, his dedication to both academic and athletic achievement provided the model for the scholar-athlete award that now bears his name. Keleher also received an honorary degree from the College in 1959, and is a member of the Saint Michael's College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Two additional student-athletes earned awards at the annual senior brunch. Women's tennis senior Sarah Knickerbocker (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) won the John D. Donoghue '32 Award for her dedication, leadership and commitment to journalism on campus. Women's lacrosse senior Shannon Murray (Bow, N.H./Bow) was among three students honored with a Senior Class Community Service Award.

During the brunch, men's swimming & diving seniors Myron Prograis (Etters, Pa./Cedar Cliff) and Sean McGurn (Braintree, Mass./Braintree), the senior class' president and vice president, respectively, unveiled the senior class awards and yearbook dedication, with the latter posthumously recognizing Fr. Ray Doherty, S.S.E. '51, a former Purple Knight baseball player and long-time member of the Society of Saint Edmund who died last summer at the age of 91. Women's ice hockey junior Ella Saracco (Melrose, Mass./Austin Prep), the Student Government Association vice president, was a co-presenter for the Reverend Gerald E. Dupont '35 Award.