Yale Honors Five Seniors and One Team with Annual Awards at Senior Reception

Brodhead, Ford, Kiphuth and Meyer Awards Announced

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Five seniors and one team were honored by the Yale Athletics Department with awards at the annual senior student-athlete reception Saturday afternoon at the Lanman Center in Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The women's fencing team earned the Brodhead Award for highest team grade point average. Alfonso Costa (Pittsburgh, Pa.) of the men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams and Annie Killian (Nashville, Tenn.) of the women’s swimming & diving team were the recipients of the Ford Student-Athlete Community Outreach Award. Lidia Gocheva (Sofia, Bulgaria) of the women’s fencing team and Alex Gornitzky (Toms River, N.J.) of the men’s swimming and diving team were the recipients of the Kiphuth Student-Athlete Distinction Award. Killian and Shane Bannon (Southbury, Conn.) of the football team were the recipients of the Meyer Humanitarian Award.

The Brodhead Award is named in honor of Richard H. Brodhead '68, Ph.D. '72, who served as Dean of Yale College from 1993 through 2004 and was on the faculty of the department of English for more than 30 years. It, along with the Kiphuth Award, was presented by Penny Laurans, the master of Jonathan Edwards College, Associate Dean of Yale College, Special Assistant to the President and a lecturer in English. The women's fencing team won with a 3.75 grade-point average. In addition to the Kiphuth Award winner Gocheva, the team also had an Academic All-Ivy League selection in senior Tasha Garcia (Staten Island, N.Y.), an art major. Garcia was also one of six Bulldogs who fenced at NCAA Regionals, and she was one of two who went on to compete at the NCAA Championship. Yale finished 12th at the championship.

The Ford Award, given annually to the male and female student-athletes who have demonstrated their commitment to strengthening the relationship between Yale athletics and the New Haven community, is named in honor of Thomas W. Ford '42, who endowed the Yale Department of Athletics Community Outreach Program in the fall of 1996. It was presented by Sam Burrell, coordinator of Yale Athletics’ Thomas W. Ford ’42 Community Outreach Program.

Costa was chair of the Yale Athletics Department’s Thomas W. Ford ’42 Community Outreach Committee and organized the annual Youth Days in which local children have the chance to learn from Yale student-athletes. He also founded “Eli’s Friends”, a program at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital that organizes Yale student-athletes to volunteer in the Pediatric Primary Care Clinic as part of the "Reach Out and Read Program." The Bulldogs engage the out care patients with books and reading activities, as well as participate in arts and crafts. The volunteers read aloud, listen to children read, and elicit the children's interest.

Costa also works with youngsters as a mentor in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and is a member of “Bulldog Buddies”, a tutoring program at Troup School, a K-8 school in New Haven. Additionally, he organized the Yale Athletics’ holiday gift-giving drive for underprivileged families and a drive that delivered 1,000 turkeys to the homeless this past Thanksgiving.

Costa, a graduate of Shady Side Academy, is an economics major and member of Pierson College.

Killian, the captain of the women’s swimming and diving team, earned a pair of awards for her humanitarian work and community service. A member of the Thomas W. Ford ’42 Community Outreach Committee, she also served as a Presidential Public Service Fellow with the National Youth Sports Program camp in New Haven during the summer of 2009. The NYSP at Yale, founded in 1996, enrolls 100s of local youths in a program run by dozens of staff members, including Yale student-athletes, local high school students, New Haven schoolteachers and coaches, and Yale staff. The program utilizes Yale facilities for activities and meals.

Killian also founded and directed Yale Swim New Haven, a program that teaches local children how to swim and is enhanced through a partnership with Dixwell Learning Center and New Haven Reads. 

Killian has earned a Henry Fellowship and will continue her education at Oxford in the fall. A graduate of Harpeth Hall School, she is an English major in Pierson College at Yale.

The Kiphuth Award that Gocheva and Gornitzky won is given to the male and female student-athletes who rank highest in scholarship and have earned two varsity awards. It is named in honor of DeLaney Kiphuth '41, M.A. '47, who served as Director of Athletics from 1954 through 1976.

Gocheva, a Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations major and member of Pierson College, qualified for the NCAA Regional in foil competition and finished 27th. She was captain of the women’s fencing team in 2008-09. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and attended American College of Sofia prior to Yale.

Gornitzky, a biology major in Davenport College, earned the Yale men’s swimming and diving team’s William Leeming Jelliffe Award, awarded to that senior who has shown the greatest progress and development in swimming ability and outstanding leadership during his college years. Gornitzky swam the 100-yard backstroke and was also a major component of Yale relay squads all season. He attended Toms River High School North prior to Yale.

This is the third year for the Meyer Award, which is named in honor of Molly Meyer, a nurse practitioner at Yale University Health Services who has been addressing the health needs of student-athletes at Yale since 1975. Meyer was on hand to present the awards Saturday. The award is given each year to a varsity athlete in the senior class "whose character exemplifies selfless devotion along with compassion and concern for their team and the community at Yale and beyond."

Killian is the first person to win both the Ford and Meyer Awards.

Bannon, a fullback who was recently selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the National Football League draft, has been active in a cause that has helped save peoples’ lives. For three straight years he has worked extensively on the annual Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registration Drive at Yale. The football team is one of the teams that lead these drives, which have added 2,500 potential donors to the Be The Match Registry for patients with life-threatening illnesses in need of genetic matches for transplants. Bannon is a member of Calhoun College, the same college that Yale women’s ice hockey player Mandi Schwartz was in prior to passing away this past April after battling leukemia for more than two years. Yale has led the nation in registrants each year, and to date six genetic matches for patients in need of transplants have been identified through the Bulldogs’ efforts.

Bannon has also been a mentor for elementary school children at Shepherd Glen School in Hamden since 2009 and has volunteered with Special Olympics. He has participated in Youth Days and the athletics department’s annual holiday gift giving drive for underprivileged children all four years he has been at Yale.

Bannon is a graduate of Pomperaug High.

Saturday’s ceremony also included a welcome from Tom Beckett, Yale's Director of Athletics, who praised the members of the senior class for their contributions as student-athletes and as members of the community. That included reciting all of the Class of 2011’s many athletic accomplishments, including the seven Ivy League titles won this season.

There were also reflections from two members of the graduating class: Stevi Petrelli (Harrison, N.Y.) of the women’s tennis team and Marty Evans (Charlotte, N.C.) of the men’s track & field team. Yale Sr. Associate Director of Athletics Amy Backus also recognized those seniors that had participated in Yale’s Kiphuth Leadership Academy, a program that is designed to foster leadership skills in Yale’s student-athletes.

A crowd of several hundred was on hand for the event, including senior student-athletes and their families along with coaches and athletic department administrators.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity