NIU celebrates fall commencement

NIU President Lisa Freeman
NIU President Lisa Freeman

NIU College of Education graduates stepped in the spotlight last month during the fall commencement ceremonies.

President Lisa Freeman told the audience at the Dec. 16 undergraduate ceremony about Annie Malecki, who earned a bachelor’s in Physical Education.

During the Dec. 15 Graduate School ceremony, Freeman spoke about Max Scharping, who earned an M.S.Ed. in Kinesiology and Physical Education. Freeman used the occasion to explain why Scharping was unable to attend his second NIU commencement – and why his absence was more than OK with her and all NIU football fans.

Here are President Freeman’s comments.

Annie Malecki

Annie Malecki
Annie Malecki

Raised in the shadow of NIU, Annie Malecki knew from a young age that she wanted to work in fitness when she grew up.

She loved to play outside … riding bikes, going for walks, boating in the summertime … or just staying active through sports.

But it was the influence of Annie’s P.E. teacher at Sycamore High School … her name is Shelly Tranchita  … that revealed a career path.

Ms. Tranchita runs what Annie calls “a different type of class,” one that is more “mind-body-fitness-based.” That holistic model ensures that P.E. reaches all children, not just athletes, with fitness activities all can enjoy.

It’s a philosophy Annie practiced in the Kaneland School District, where she student-taught this semester. Her curriculum mimicked a sport season … preseason, regular season, postseason and a culminating event … along with fitness days and days where children chose their activities.

With today’s degree in Physical Education, Annie follows the footsteps of her educator parents. Her mom, Christine, is a professor of psychology here at NIU, and her dad, Joe, teaches history at Sycamore High.

Confident, outgoing and driven to succeed, Annie started her higher education at Kishwaukee College, where she completed her associate’s in three semesters.

Transferring here in August of 2016 … and dually enrolled … she joined the KNPE Majors Club, landed a marketing internship with Huskie Athletics and became engaged in research.

Working with Professor Zach Wahl-Alexander, she studied the power of goals … in this case, numbers of steps, measured by pedometers … and learned that students are more likely to achieve specific goals when actually challenged with those goals.

As Annie says, “Students need to know what their best is … and, most often, students can be more than they think they can be.”

Great advice for anyone, Annie, and something you proved this spring by earning a Major of the Year Award from the SHAPE America organization.

Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished so far, and best of luck in graduate school!

Max Scharping

Max Scharping
Max Scharping

The next graduate I want to spotlight could not join us here today, but he has an amazing excuse. Max Scharping is a leading player on our MAC champion Huskie football team, and he’s in Boca Raton preparing for Tuesday’s bowl game!

When you grow up in Green Bay … near the iconic Lambeau Field and its legends of the game across 99 years of winning tradition … I imagine it’s difficult not to dream of becoming a professional football player.

And so it is for Max Scharping … an offensive tackle born in the time of Favre, raised in the era of Rodgers … who, unlike most boys in Title Town, truly seems destined to join the NFL soon.

But his story is more than football, even if most of us recognize Max as big No. 73 on the Huskie line of scrimmage.

It’s the story of a hard-working, passionate student with a competitive streak, who came to NIU in 2014 with so many Advanced Placement credits that he earned his bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology in only three years.

Max then tackled our master’s program in Exercise Physiology … and somehow completed it in three semesters, two of which included football seasons!

He’s someone who came here unsure of a major but knowing it needed to involve sport … the thing that’s made such a huge impact on his life … especially through the trainers who helped him develop his strength … who returned him to playing speed after two surgeries. He wants to be that person for others.

Thanks to the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, he understands the benefit of taking care of his body … of proper nutrition … of stretching.

Much of the credit for his success goes to his parents, Paul and Jackie, who are with us today. From the beginning, Mom and Dad instilled in him to love school and to do his best … to show up every day … to work hard.

He took that ball and ran with it, learning to manage his time well. He opened lines of communication with his professors to juggle his classes with weeknight games.

Within football, of course, are many honors. Max feels blessed to have started more than 50 consecutive games … his entire NIU career … and to have lined up for every exhilarating offensive snap, where he and his teammates function as one.

This fall alone, Max was named a preseason All-American by USA Today, a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete and a semifinalist for college football’s premier award for community service.

I quote Head Football Coach Rod Carey: “We have a saying here that you don’t lead by example. You set the example. Max truly does that every day. He sets the example, and everyone else has to chase it.”

Congratulations, Max!

Please enjoy this photo gallery from Fall 2018 commencement! Click on each image for a full-size view.

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