Senior Scholar Athlete Award winners in league of their own

In their last official duty as student-athletes, Brody Oliver and Jennifer Kendall stood on either side of the commencement podium and launched into the Mines fight song:

I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three hundred pounds,
The college bell to mix it in and a clapper to stir it ‘round.
Like every honest fellow, I take my whiskey clear,
I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Golden Tech, a helluva engineer.
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer,
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer,
Like every honest fellow, I take my whiskey clear,
I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Golden Tech, a helluva engineer.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.
What the hell do we care as long as we get our share.
Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.
M-I-N-E-S
What the hell do we care now?

The winners of the Fall 2018 President’s Senior Scholar Athlete Award led their fellow graduating student-athletes in the fight song to close out the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Dec. 14 — a grand finale to the midyear celebration as well as their tenure as Oredigger athletes.

The Senior Scholar Athlete Award is presented to one graduating female athlete and one graduating male athlete every semester who truly embody the best of what it means to be a student-athlete at Mines. To qualify, graduating athletes must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, lettered in a sport during their senior year and demonstrated leadership qualities of an exemplary student athlete.

This year’s honorees boasted impressive resumes on the field, as well.

Kendall, captain of the women’s soccer team and a first-team Academic All-American, was a member of Oredigger squads that won the RMAC regular-season and RMAC Tournament titles in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and earned berths in the NCAA Tournament every season she played, including the Elite Eight in 2016. In 2018, she scored a team-high 12 goals with five assists. Kendall ended her career among Mines’ all-time leaders in goals, points and game-winning goals.

Oliver, captain of the football team, first-team All American and second-team Academic All-American, contributed to Oredigger teams that won the RMAC title and appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2018. In 2018, he led NCAA Division II in receiving touchdowns and ranked fourth in yards, catching 73 passes for 1,339 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was just the second RMAC receiver ever to surpass 4,000 yards and set a conference record of 59 total touchdowns. He ended his career as Mines’ all-time leader in receiving yards, total touchdowns, yards per catch and scoring. 

“The best thing about being a student-athlete at Mines is winning at Mines,” Kendall said. “Mines has created a winning tradition — a tradition where nerds win.”

Kendall, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, said coming to Mines was the best decision she ever made.

“In high school I didn’t know much about Mines. I knew that it was an excellent school but that was about it," the Michigan native said. "I attended the soccer camp for Mines and was given the opportunity to walk onto the soccer team and I quickly accepted. Looking back, I really lucked out.”

A two-year team captain, Kendall credits her participation in athletics for really helping her blossom as a leader in all areas of life. 

“My coaches Kevin Fickes and Shannon DeVoe had a huge impact on my life. They fostered commitment, teamwork and leadership. They also showed me and the entire team what it meant to really lead a team,” she said. “My coaches gave me the opportunity to grow and become the leader that I am today.”

Kendall has yet to accept a job offer but said she plans to stay in Colorado. She chose mechanical engineering for its wide array of career options and graduated summa cum laude.

“Getting through Mines is not an easy thing to do. Through all of the early mornings and late nights, Mines students really know what working hard is,” Kendall said. “As we go through classes, our confidence also grows. As we graduated this year we are no longer those confused freshmen. Rather, we are prepared — and excited — to go out into the world as engineers.”

Oliver, who received his bachelor’s degree in metallurgical and materials engineering, agreed and said his experience at Mines — and the support of his football teammates — changed him completely.

“When I was in high school, I was just a stubborn kid who didn’t know his way around the world,” Oliver said. “Coming to Mines and being part of this elite group, it completely changed me. It taught me hard work, discipline, respect, so many good traits. I wouldn’t even recognize myself now.”

A Colorado native, Oliver discovered his passion for metallurgy after his father, a welding instructor at a local technical college, put him in touch with Professor Stephen Liu, director of the Center for Welding, Joining and Coatings Research at Mines. Oliver ended up conducting undergraduate research with Liu his junior and senior years and said he loves how many career paths metallurgy provides.

“Pretty much any industry you want to go into there are metallurgy jobs,” Oliver said. “Making planes, electronics, oil and gas, mining ore out of the ground — you need someone who understands how metals and materials work.”

For now, that career is on the back burner. The best receiver in Mines history turned down an offer to work as a refinery metallurgist to pursue his dream of a career in the NFL. Oliver recently accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Bowl, one of the premier senior all-star games in college football. He was one of only three NCAA Division II players invited to participate in the Jan. 19 game.

“Attention from scouts and agents gave me the confidence that I could make it at the next level,” Oliver said. “So, I’m training now and am going to be training through April to try to play in the NFL and keep playing football for as long as I can.”

No matter what happens this spring, though, Oliver is confident that he’s positioned to succeed.

“For a lot of kids, football is Plan A, B and C. For me, being a high-level engineer from School of Mines, that’s not too bad of a backup plan,” he said.

CONTACT
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Tim Flynn, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, Mines Athletics | 303-273-3095 | flynn@mines.edu