NAIA 2015 National Awards Day

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Sept. 16, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --


The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced the association's highest individual honors in a video presentation (WATCH HERE) as part of the inaugural NAIA National Awards Day. Awards recognized achievements of NAIA student-athletes, administrators and coaches. In addition, 9 inductees to the 2015-16 NAIA Hall of Fame Class were announced.

2015-16 NAIA National Award Winners:

A. O. Duer Scholarship Award: Leah Esposito, Carroll College (Mont.); Kellen Luey, Corban University (Ore.)

Presented by Daktronics, the A. O. Duer Scholarship recognizes academics, character and citizenship by junior student-athletes in any sport. Named in honor of the NAIA's former executive secretary for his 26 years of service to the Association, the award has been presented since 1967 to one male and one female junior student-athlete. Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

Leah runs track and cross country for Carroll College and is a "full package" student-athlete, maintaining a 4.0 GPA in the field of Biology and preparing for a career in veterinary medicine. She has achieved All-American finishes each season in Cross Country and Track & Field and is the 2015 NAIA Indoor 1,000 Meter Champion.

Kellen is a leader of the men's soccer team at Corban University. He is working towards double majors in Accounting and Management and plans to attend law school in the fall of 2016. Kellen's hard work has earned him All-Conference, All-Region and First Team Academic All-American awards.

Emil S. Liston Award: Kaitlyn Davis, Culver-Stockton College (Mo.); Grant Greenberg, University of Saint Mary (Kan.)

The Emil S. Liston award, presented by Daktronics, recognizes academic and athletic excellence by junior student-athletes in men's and women's basketball. Named in honor of the NAIA's first executive secretary and a prime mover behind the men's basketball tournament, the Emil Liston Scholarship Award has been presented annually since 1950 to one junior men's and one junior women's basketball student-athlete. Each student is awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

This year's Emil S. Liston Award goes to Kaitlyn Davis of Culver -Stockton College and Grant Greenberg of the University of St. Mary. Kaitlyn is working towards her degree in Biological Chemistry, with a minor in Business Management and is quiet leader for the Lady Wildcats. She has already been inducted into the freshman, sophomore, and junior level honors societies and is also the recipient of the 2015 NAIA Scholar Athlete Award.

Grant is a Sport Management major and outstanding leader on the basketball court. After only two seasons, Grant broke the record for Saint Mary's all-time leading scorer. Grant's leadership and skill have earned him the honor of being named a NAIA 1st Team All American in 2015.

Dr. LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award: Wanessa Siqueira, Park University (Mo.)

Created in honor of Dr. LeRoy Walker, former NAIA President and President Emeritus of the United States Olympic Committee, this award annually recognizes a junior or senior student-athlete who has embraced the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program and demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, campus and community leadership, athletic achievement and future ambition.

Presented by Herff Jones, Wanessa Siqueira, captain of the Park University volleyball team, is the 2015 Dr. Leroy Walker Character Award winner. As captain, she helped her team to a 40-0 season, which culminated in a national championship title. Wanessa is a two-time NAIA First Team All-American and was named the 2014 Capital One Academic All-American of the Year. Wanessa graduated from Park with a 3.9 GPA and is now attending graduate school.

NAIA-National Sportsmanship Foundation "All That's Right in Sport" Award: Jason Boulais, University of South Carolina Beaufort

The National Sportsmanship Foundation and the NAIA partner annually honor one NAIA institution, team or individual for actions in NAIA competition that are clear demonstrations of extraordinary sportsmanship. Jason Boulais, baseball player for the University of South Carolina Beaufort, is this years All That's Right in Sports award winner.

At the end of the 2015 baseball season, Jason decided to give up part of his final season of competitive baseball, so he could donate bone marrow to a 5-year-old with blood cancer. Jason missed the final game of his collegiate baseball career to undergo the donation procedure. The impact of Jason's story - which has been reported by numerous national media outlets - has had a huge effect on raising awareness for Be The Match, a registry for bone marrow donors.

Athletics Director of the Year: Gary Newsome, Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.)

Gary Newsome of Olivet Nazarene University is the 2015 NAIA Athletics Director of the Year. This prestigious award is given annually to an athletics director for his or her accomplishments in all facets of athletics administration over the course of the previous year.

Gary's tenure as Athletics Directors at ONU has been characterized by strong commitment to service, character development and growth. ONU has consistently let the NAIA in the number of scholar-athletes and teams each year, boasting an NAIA-best 19 Scholar Teams in 2013-14. In addition, ONU has been a Champions of Character 5-star institution for the past 7 years that Gary has been the athletics director.

Newsome's efforts have signifcantly grown ONU's athletics department, increasing the number of athletes by 150% and adding three varsity sports, three junior varsity sports and one invitational sport. In 2014, 12 ONU teams made NAIA national tournament appearances.

Charles Morris Administrator of the Year: Kent Paulson, Frontier Conference

Kent Paulson, Commissioner of the Frontier Conference, has been named the 2015 Charles Morris Administrator of the Year. This prestigious honor, initiated in memory of former NAIA Associate Executive Director Charles Morris, recognizes an NAIA member who has made significant contributions as an administrator of intercollegiate athletics, while exemplifying the loyalty and enthusiasm Charles Morris had for the NAIA.

As Commissioner of the Frontier Conference for the past six years, Kent inspires others through his positivity and commitment to doing the right thing for his conference and for the national association. Kent serves as the chair of the CCA and as a representative on the National Administrative Council and is an indispensable asset to the Frontier Conference and the NAIA.

Last winter, Kent suffered a near fatal automobile accident. Kent's inspiring recovery and return to the helm of the Frontier Conference is a true testament to his perseverance, fortitude and dedication to his member institutions.

Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative of the Year: Bryce Bernard, Corban University (Ore.)

Bryce Bernard of Corban University is the 2015 winner of the Wally Schwartz Faculty Athletics Representative of the year. This illustrious award, initiated in honor of past NAIA Vice President of Legislative Services and NAIA Hall of Famer Wally Schwartz, recognizes a Faculty Athletics Representative who exemplifies the loyalty, enthusiasm and honesty Schwartz showed on behalf of the NAIA.

Dr. Bernard has had a distinguished career at Corban University. He has been a professor in the Hoff School of Business for 28 years and has served as FAR for 27 of those years. On the conference level, he has served as a member of the Cascade Conference Eligibility Committee for 16 years and has been the CCC FAR Chair since 2012. On the national level, Bryce has devoted himself to numerous leadership roles, serving on the National Eligibility Committee, Constitution and Bylaws Committee, and the NAIA Fifth Year of Eligibility Task Force.

Sports Information Director of the Year: Brad Cygan, Missouri Baptist University

Each affiliated conference and the association of independent institutions nominate one sports information director based on accomplishments during the previous year in the areas of athletics communication, sports information, promotion and service to the NAIA. This is the second time this award has been presented.

The 2015 Sports Information Director of the year is Brad Cygan of Missouri Baptist University.

Over the past four years, the overall footprint of MBU Athletics has grown significantly, due mainly to Brad's efforts and his established media contacts. Missouri Baptist has had outstanding coverage in the St. Louis market, garnering more press than most of the other DII and DIII schools in the St. Louis Metro Area. In addition, Brad spearheaded the creation of the Spartan Digital Network, a live streaming service that continues to improve each year. Due to his highly successful writing and communication, the Missouri Baptist faculty invited Brad to teach Sport Communication, beginning this spring.

Clarence "Ike" Pearson SID Award: Mike Safford, Jr., The College of Idaho

Mike Safford, College of Idaho, is the 2015 winner of the NAIA-SIDA Clarence "Ike" Pearson Award. The Clarence "Ike" Pearson Award is given annually to a member of the NAIA Sports Information Directors Association (NAIA-SIDA) to honor outstanding contributions to the profession. The award is named for the former statistical crew chief of the NAIA men's basketball national championship in Kansas City, Mo.

Mike has been with the College of Idaho for 14 years. Until the fall of 2014, Mike was the sole person responsible for covering the 17 varsity sports at the College of Idaho, often on duty from morning to midnight each day. Mike is the creator of the first-ever Cascade Conference SID Manual that is still used by the Cascade and Frontier Conferences after 12 years.

Mike's ability to collaborate with colleagues in the marketing and communication department has resulted in dozens of awards for the college at the CoSIDA National Convention. This year, Mike was elected to the NAIA-SIDA Board as an at-large representative.

NAIA Coach of Character Award: Mattias Johansson, Vanguard University (Calif.)

Mattias Johansson of Vanguard University has been named to the 2015-16 NAIA Hall of Fame and is the 2015 NAIA Coach of Character. The Coach of Character award is presented by Herff Jones and is given annually to an NAIA head coach who has embraced the five core values of the NAIA Champions of Character program, demonstrated character through sport and instilled a culture of community leadership through volunteering or service.

Coach Johansson coached men's and women's tennis at Vanguard since 1996. During his tenure, the tennis program at Vanguard was extremely competitive nationally and consistently role modeled the core values of Champions of Character. Mattias' coaching has led to 85 All-American and NAIA Scholar-Athletes, 39 All-GSAC players, 15 All-Region players, and over 15 players with awards for their stellar play at NAIA Championships.

Athletic Trainer of the Year: Bill Dill, Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.)

William "Bill" Dill of Lindenwood University-Belleville is the 2015 NAIA Athletics Trainer of the Year. The NAIA Athletic Trainer of the Year Award recognizes an NATA certified athletic trainer at a NAIA institution who has distinguished himself as a model of the profession in personal conduct and professional allied health service to athletes.

Bill has worked at a NAIA institution for 10+ years and was an NAIA student athlete. Under Bill's leadership, ten new athletic training positions were created at Lindenwood-Belleville, allowing more student-athletes gain valuable hands-on experience. Several former students of Bill have gone on to be successful athletic trainers and physical therapists in the St. Louis area. Bill has also initiated the Fellowship of Christian athletes association on campus, which is an organization that helps young student-athletes grow and strengthen their faith.

Larry Lady Officiating Award: Bruce Doane, Umpire

The award is presented annually to an official of any sport recognized by the NAIA. It is named in honor of Larry Lady, current NAIA Supervisor of Officials for basketball, football and baseball and recognizes persons of outstanding quality, high moral character, fine officiating ability and be held in high esteem by their colleagues, administrators and athletes.

This year's Larry Lady Officiating Award winner is Bruce Doane, baseball umpire at all levels of amateur baseball and independent league baseball. Bruce has been umpiring for 41 years and has worked over 15 NAIA District, Regional and Opening Round events, as well as all 19 WHAC Conference Tournaments. He also serves the NAIA through his work as a conference coordinator/assignor. He is currently the Coordinator of Umpires for the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and the Co-Assignor of Umpires for the Crossroads Conference. Outside of the NAIA, Bruce umpires primarily in the Big Ten, American and Big East Conferences.

NAIA Hall of Fame Inductees:

The Hall of Fame Award is the highest honor presented by the association. Nominees must have outstanding character and leadership ability, and be held in high esteem by their colleagues, former coaches and athletes. The Hall of Fame consists of an athlete and coach category for each sport and a category for general meritorious service.

Tyrone Van Aswegen, Oklahoma City University, Men's Golf - Athlete

Van Aswegen is a three-time All-American (2002, 2003, and 2004) from Oklahoma City University. He accumulated seven wins, including five wins his senior year. He was a member of four national championship teams and received NAIA Championships all-tournament honors in 2003. In his senior year, he led the NAIA with a stroke average of 70.73. In addition to winning the 2002 NAIA Player of the Year award, he also won the individual championship.

Tyrone is a Professional Golfer currently playing in his second season on the PGA Tour. Van Aswegen earned his PGA Tour card for the 2014 season after finishing in the Top 25 ranking on the Tour on 2013. He made 15 cuts in 25 PGA Tour starts and recorded four Top 25 finishes while finishing a career best 16th place at the HP Byron Nelson Classic.

Randi (Morgan) Haines, Dakota Wesleyan University (S.D), Women's Basketball - Athlete

Haines played basketball for the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers from 2000-2004. During that time, she became the biggest name in the history of DWU women's basketball. The Tiger teams featuring Randi were the most successful in school history, with the team reaching the NAIA National Tournament three times in her four years.

Randi holds the DWU career scoring record by more than 700 points, with 2,557 for her career. She is the second-leading scorer in the history of South Dakota college basketball at any level and is South Dakota's all-time leader in rebounds with 1,544. She was the National player of the year, three-time All-American, and the first Tiger to be named to the All-GPAC team for four straight seasons.

After graduation, Randi played professionally for BG Gottingen, Germany. She was inducted into the DWU Hall of Fame in 2009, and she was the first DWU women's basketball player to have her jersey, No. 54, retired.

Mark Hollis, Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), Men's Track & Field - Athlete

Hollis was a NAIA track & field national champion pole vaulter in 2006 and 2007. In 2014 he was the USA Outdoor National Champion, finished the season ranked second in the world, broke 19' in Liege, Belgium – at the time, the highest jump on 2014 – and was the runner-up at the USA Indoor National Championship.

Mark was inducted into the Olivet Nazarene Hall of Fame in 2013. Other accolades include winning the 2011 USA Indoor National Championships, and placing 6th at the 2012 and 2013 USA Indoor National Championships. He also represented team USA at the World Championships in 2011.

James "Jim" Kessler, Grace College, Men's Basketball - Coach

Coach Kessler has been the Head Basketball Coach at Grace College for 38 years. He has defined the program at Grace, leading his team to 9 NAIA DII National Tournament appearances, 4 quarterfinal appearances, 2 semifinal appearances, and 1 NAIA National Championship title. Over the years, Kessler has been named Coach of the Year five times, and his team is currently ranked 4th on the All-Time Active Wins list for DII Men's Basketball.

Coach Kessler is the longest tenured head men's basketball coach in the state of Indiana and was selected as the 2006 NABC Guardians of the Game National service award winner. In addition, he was won the NAIA-NABC Men's Basketball Merit Award in 2011-12 and represented team USA as the coach for the 2013 University World Games.

Lucias Mitchell, Kentucky State University, Men's Basketball - Coach

Lucias Mitchell was Head Men's Basketball Coach at Kentucky State University. Coach Mitchell lived and breathed basketball, and his 325-103 record in 15 years more than speaks for itself. His Kentucky State teams won three straight NAIA National titles in '70, '71, and '72. During those championship years, two of his players were drafted in the first round of the NBA in back-to-back seasons, a first in men's basketball history. Mitchell's teams never lost a District game, winning six straight at Kentucky State and three straight at Norfolk State for a perfect 18-0 record. He ranks as the 28th all-time winningest coaches (all divisions) with a career win percentage of .759.

Coach Mitchell has been recognized nationally and internationally for his coaching. He was selected as a lecturer at the 1972 Summer Olympics and coached All-Star teams in Venezuela in the summers of '71 and '72. He was also named the first African American officer of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He was the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1970 as KSU was a dual member of both affiliations, NAIA Coach of the Year in 1971, and Universal Sports Coach of the Year in 1972.

Dr. Joyce Pigge, Bethany College, Meritorious Service

For 2015, the Hall of Fame committee has selected Dr. Joyce Pig of Bethany College for meritorious service. Joyce has been involved in intercollegiate athletics on the institutional, conference, and national levels for over 45 years. She began her career at Bethany when she pioneered the inception of women's athletics in the 1970s. Joyce has served Bethany as professor of political science and took on the title of Faculty Athletic Representative in 1979, a position which she has held since.

On the conference level, Joyce has been the Eligibility Chair of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference since 1994 and the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference since 2007. She has served as the Eligibility Chair and Faculty Athletics Representative for the KCAC since 1996. Joyce has also been active in her participation with the NAIA, by serving on the National Eligibility Committee and the National Coordinating Committee.

Ritchie Richardson, Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.), Softball - Coach

Richie has served as the Olivet Nazarene Head Softball Coach from 1995-2000 and then again from 2002-2013. He has compiled an overall record of 887-293-1 and a conference record of 252-37-1. Richie is currently second in the top 25 softball active winningest coaches in the NAIA. He has led the Tigers to 10 regular season Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships and 12 CCAC Tournament championships.

Ritchie was named the CCAC Coach of the Year 12 times, NFCA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year 10 times, NCCAA National Coach of the Year 5 times, NCCAA North Central Region 10 times, and NAIA Region Coach of the Year 5 times. Richardson was inducted into the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference's Hall of Fame in October of 2005 and the Olivet Nazarene University Athletic Hall of Fame in November of 2011, both as a coach.

Rico Swanson, Bethel College (Ind.), Men's Basketball - Athlete

Swanson helped lead Bethel College to three national championships during his four years. With Rico as their lead, the Pilots amassed a record of 139 wins and 12 losses. In 1995 Rico was named to the All-Tournament team in the NAIA finals. In 1996, he was an All-American Honorable Mention selection. Swanson captured back-to-back National Player of the Year awards in 1997 and 1998.

Upon graduation, Rico had rewritten the NAIA Tournament record book, as he held 16 personal records. He still owns three national tournament records, sits second in one record, and third in two national tournament records. He also holds an impressive overall national tournament record of 16-1. Swanson played professionally in Europe before returning to Bethel as an assistant coach for six seasons. As an assistant coach, he was a part of another national championship in the NCCAA tournament.

The Hall of Fame inductees will be recognized throughout the year at their respective NAIA National Championships, national coaches' association meetings or at the 75th NAIA National Convention in Kansas City, Mo. More detailed information about each inductee will be released prior to these ceremonies. View the complete list of NAIA Hall of Famers.

CONTACT: Chad Waller
         Director of Communications & Sports Information
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