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Bluffton University presented three athletics awards to four recipients on April 19.

Sharing the Kathryn E. Little Award as the university’s outstanding senior female athlete were basketball player Kim Miller of Delphos, Ohio, and volleyball player Shauna Rowland of Bucyrus, Ohio.

Joining them as award recipients were basketball player Rob Luderman of Defiance, Ohio, who earned the A.C. Burcky Award as outstanding senior male athlete, and Del Gratz, the university’s assistant registrar, who received the Larry W. Jones Memorial Award for his support of, and significant contributions to, Bluffton athletics.
Athletic Awards

Speaking before the awards ceremony was Lee Owens, a 1977 Bluffton graduate and current head football coach at Ashland University. Recalling his years at Bluffton, Owens said "I was surrounded by people with a courage of faith I’d never seen before," and developing similar courage was the most important outcome of his education.

The Little Award is based on scholarship, academic abilities and campus leadership, as well as four years of participation in at least one sport. Both Miller and Rowland made their marks on and off the court.

Miller became Bluffton’s career leader in rebounds (647) and assists (412) while rising to second on the scoring list, with 1,171 points. She also ranks second in steals and fourth in blocked shots.

"She was a three-time captain and leader of the team, and one of those players who had a unique ability to make everyone around her better," said award presenter Tamara Forbes, associate professor of recreation and chair of Bluffton’s health, fitness and sport science department. "She is a true competitor and approached practice with the same intensity and work ethic that she did in games."

Involved in other campus activities as well, Miller carries a 3.4 grade point average and will graduate next month with a degree in social work.

Rowland also has a 3.4 GPA as an intervention specialist major. She became the volleyball team’s full-time setter following her freshman year and, according to Coach Steve Yarnell, "Shauna has been the difference maker in our program. She has been the voice and face of our volleyball program and was a crucial element in us being able to flip the tables" from an 11-20 record her freshman year to three straight seasons of more than 20 wins and, in 2009, Heartland Conference regular-season and tournament titles and a NCAA Tournament berth.

The three-year captain was also the conference Player of the Year and a member of its all-tournament team in 2009. She was a member of the all-conference volleyball team the last three years and a three-time conference Player of the Week during her career. Her teammates voted her as the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2009 and 2010, and she ranks second in career assists at Bluffton.

Miller’s and Rowland’s award is named for Kathryn Little, who served in Bluffton’s health, physical education and recreation department and in athletics from 1958-74. She was a member of the first class inducted into the Bluffton Athletics Hall of Fame, also in 1974.

Athletics Director Phill Talavinia presented the Burcky Award to Luderman, an education major who was basketball team captain this year and was named to the all-tournament team at the 2010 McDonald’s of Bluffton Holiday Tournament.

"When you try to put the puzzle of a team together, the piece to that puzzle that Rob occupies is vital, if you really want a good team," said his coach, Guy Neal. "Rob is the guy who cares about team and is willing to do the little things on and off the court that are really important."

Noting that Luderman has also been an excellent student, Neal added that he was worked through several injuries during his Bluffton career and played his best basketball this past season, helping lead the Beavers to a 15-11 record.

The Burcky Award is named for the late professor of physical education and coach who served Bluffton from 1922-68. He was inducted into the NAIA Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and, in 1970, the A.C. Burcky addition to Founders Hall was dedicated in his honor. Burcky died in 1989 at age 93.

As a longtime supporter of Bluffton athletics and its student-athletes, Gratz was honored with the Jones Award, which is named for a 1970 graduate who played varsity basketball and later officiated numerous Bluffton basketball games before his death in a 1978 auto accident. The award goes to a non-athlete, whether a student, faculty or staff member, or citizen.

Gratz attends many athletic events on campus and, as assistant registrar, provides assistance in certification of student-athletes for NCAA compliance, noted his presenter, Dr. George Metz, chair of the education department and the education and sport science division, and faculty athletics representative.


Bluffton public relations, 4/19/11