Springfield, Ohio — Rachel Dixon, class of 2009 from West Liberty, Ohio, chose to attend Wittenberg University for many reasons. One of the more prominent ones was to play basketball for the legendary Pam Smith.
Less than a year after Smith passed away, Dixon and field hockey standout Whitney Marshall, class of 2009 from Barre, Mass., are the first recipients of awards from the Pam Evans Smith '82 Memorial Scholarship fund, which will be given annually to deserving female seniors who have demonstrated leadership and academic abilities.
Smith had a profound impact upon the athletes she coached and the students she taught over an illustrious Wittenberg career that spanned more than two decades, and the scholarship fund ensures that she will continue to impact young people in the future. Dixon and Marshall are fitting inaugural recipients as both are standouts on the playing field and in the classroom, and they are active and engaged in many areas of campus life.
"This scholarship was set up because of what Pam stood for and everything that Wittenberg meant to her," said Pam's husband, Roger Smith, who established the fund and has worked tirelessly to raise more than $60,000 for it. "I'm thrilled to see young people who stand for the same things as Pam chosen to receive the first awards, and I look forward to raising more money in the future so we can give even more scholarships."
Pam Smith was the architect of the women's basketball program with the most wins and highest winning percentage in North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) history through 2007. A 1999 Wittenberg University Athletics Hall of Honor inductee, Smith earned seven NCAC Coach of the Year awards and compiled a 401-170 record after taking the reins of a struggling program prior to the 1986-87 season. She led the Tigers to eight NCAA Division III Tournament appearances, twelve 20-win seasons and 11 NCAC regular season championships.
Smith also enjoyed a record-breaking career as a player in the Wittenberg Red & White between 1979-82. Smith was selected second-team Academic All-America as a senior after earning team Most Valuable Player three straight years. She was the Tigers' all-time leading scorer until 1989, and she remains the record-holder for season scoring average.
Dixon has followed in her coach's footsteps, despite knee injuries suffered prior to each of the last two basketball seasons. As a freshman, Dixon averaged 15 minutes off the bench while playing all 27 games. She contributed 4.9 points and 2.0 rebounds per contest as the Tigers won the NCAC regular season title with records of 19-8 overall and 14-2 in the conference.
Dixon has remained a vital part of the program the last two years, even filling a key role as an assistant coach in 2007-08 as the Tigers went 15-11 overall and 12-4 in the NCAC under first-year Head Coach Sarah Jurewicz, class of 1998, another Smith protg. She plans to return to the court for her senior season in 2008-09.
However, her exploits on the basketball court tell just part of the story. An education major, Dixon has worked as an intern and a tour guide for Wittenberg's Office of Admission, and is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Delta Gamma sorority. In addition, Dixon participated in the 2006 service trip to the impoverished African nation of Lesotho with more than 40 other Wittenberg students.
"People told me in high school not to just pick a college because of basketball," Dixon said. "After all, what if I were to suffer a career-ending injury?
"Ironically, I have suffered injuries, and through all of this I know I made the right decision. Coach was so devoted, and she became a real mentor to me. Even when I was injured, she always made sure that I felt like I was part of the team."
Marshall has been a steady performer on the defensive end for the Wittenberg field hockey team, earning three letters while starting all but four of the team's 57 games since 2005. An English and political science double major, Marshall earned honorable mention All-NCAC honors in 2006 and has been recognized by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association as a member of the National Academic Squad each of the last three years.
Elsewhere on campus, Marshall is involved in Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Alpha Lambda Delta honorary and has served as a tour guide for the Office of Admission. She is in the University Honors program, has been an officer in Pick n Pen and previously served as a chief justice on the Panhellenic Council.
Additional information, and instructions about how to make contributions to the scholarship, can be found on a special memorial Web site.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Robert Gantt