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House on the Hill: It's Show Time

May 20, 2014

Lafayette field hockey seniors Haley Keenan and Kelsey Gula will strut down the red carpet, pose for pictures as flashbulbs light up their faces in front of a backdrop and have a video camera and microphone pointed at them.

No, they aren't attending a fashion show in New York.

What they'll be doing will be something they'll probably enjoy a whole lot more.

Keenan and Gula will be joined by more than 100 other Lafayette College student-athletes for the 2014 PARDees, the senior student-athlete awards show on Thursday, May 22. The ceremony and the pre-event celebration and reception that follows, all of which will be at the Williams Center for the Arts, is meant to honor their academic and athletic accomplishments.

While most of student-athletes in attendance won't have had any prior up-close-and-personal experience with the event, Keenan and Gula, both field hockey players, have a unique perspective.

As juniors last year, they were hosts on the red carpet where they interviewed the seniors, coaches and athletic department staff as they made their way into the event. When the videos were posted online, viewers got to see Lafayette's version of Ryan Seacrest and Guilanna Rancic.

"That's my dream job," said Keenan, who is from Doylestown and is a double major in international affairs and Latin American studies. "I was loving it. As they came in, we asked them a series of questions ranging from their favorite memory in their four years to their plans for the future."

Gula had one question she loved asking the guys.

2013 PARDees Red Carpet Interviews. 

"So, who are you wearing?" she said as she chuckled.

The laughs continue throughout much of the night. Gary Laubach of the Lafayette Sports Network and Susan Averett, Ph.D., a Dana professor of economics and Lafayette's NCAA faculty representative, serve as the hosts during the awards show when four graduating seniors receive special recognition.

Two male and two female senior student-athletes are honored. The awards are voted upon by Lafayette's head coaches and athletic administration. The Albert Award is presented annually to the senior male and female student-athletes who are judged to be the most outstanding athlete. The 1913 Trophy is presented annually to the senior male and female student-athletes who have attained the greatest distinction as an athlete and a scholar.

The theatre-style setup has a stage where Laubach and Averett present the awards as the student-athletes sit with their families, teammates and coaching staffs.

"Seeing the amount of support that all the seniors were given at that time [when I was a host] and the gratitude everyone had for their four years had me take a step back and see the bigger picture of how much time you put into being a student-athlete and you see the excitement of your coaches and peers," Keenan said. "They cared enough to put it all together that night. Seeing it all made me excited to move into my senior year, and know I would have that same emotional feeling of gratitude."

Although Gula, an economics major from Newtown Square, has mixed emotions about her time at Lafayette coming to a close, she can't wait to get together with her teammates and other student-athletes one last time.

"Lafayette Athletics has really created a culture for the student-athletes as well as our parents," Gula said. "It's understood that everyone is working together to make your experience the best it can possibly be."

"The fact that the parents get to come and sit with us one last time is just as special for them as it is for us. The athletics department takes into account what we all do to make everything run smoothly is really special, and I'm so grateful we have such a great athletic department. They really take care of us. If I had to do it all over again, I'd go to Lafayette."

Gula and Keenan aren't the only ones who feel honored.

For the second year in a row, Averett will be on stage telling jokes, handing out awards and enjoying all the smiles she'll see among audience members.

"I'm glad they asked me back," Averett said. "Actually, surprisingly enough, it makes me a little nervous. It's really different talking to them about economics than trying to be funny, but once you relax, it is really fun. You try to make them laugh and see if they get the jokes. Last year, I didn't really know what to expect. Heading into this year's event, I have a few ideas. I can see the advantages to doing it more than once."

Bruce McCutcheon, Ph.D., director of athletics, can't help but feel a sense of pride for what the athletic communications staff pulls off. The event, which takes several months to put together, has gone from being a more basic awards ceremony to a full-blown affair that creates lasting memories for everyone involved during senior week.

"There is a tremendous amount of work and effort that goes into this," McCutcheon said. "The athletic communications team handle all production elements. They do everything from figuring out the stories and asking staff members what would be good content to choreographing the show and writing the script to putting the videos together. It's a real labor of love for them. I'm just so proud of the job they do and so thankful they are willing to put in that kind of effort."

By Mandy Housenick | House on the Hill