In a guest post by Joey Spano, the namesake of an endowment announces the 2011 recipient: Jenilee Rathje

Guest Author: Joey Spano

Jenilee Rathje

The Joey M. Spano Endowment was established in fall, 2008 by the Club to provide academic scholarships to Spartan letterwinners who wish to pursue an advanced degree at MSU. The endowment seeks to support talented former student-athletes who are MSU Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club members in good standing, have completed their undergraduate studies with a GPA of 3.1 or higher and have demonstrated outstanding character and exceptional leadership through university and community involvement.The MSU Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club has named Jenilee Rathje the 2011 recipient of the Joey M. Spano Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club Graduate Endowed Fellowship. Rathje will be awarded $2,000 towards her graduate studies at Michigan State where she will pursue a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology/Sports Administration. A three year letterwinner in Volleyball, Jenilee graduated in December, 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing with a specialization in International Business. She has one year of NCAA eligibility remaining and will be competing in volleyball this fall while in graduate school.

Jenilee’s remarkable accomplishments in the classroom, as well as the on the volleyball court exemplify the characteristics the Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club seeks in its honorees. Jenilee graduated with Honors, earning a 3.84 GPA and making the Dean’s list every semester of her undergraduate years. She has won the Spartan Academic Excellence Gala Top Scholar-Athlete Award for the volleyball team three consecutive years in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She was an Academic All-Big Ten Selection in 2009 and 2010. She was also named a Big-Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2009 and 2010 and Auto Owner’s Champion in the Classroom last year.

Her academic exploits were matched on the court, as Rathje athletic honors were numerous. Big Ten Player of the Week in September, 2007 along with the Blue Collar Award also that year, set the tone for her Spartan career. Jenilee won the Kirkby Scholar-Athlete Award (a team award) three years running, starting in 2008. This past season, Jenilee was a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team Selection, an AVCA All-Mideast Region Honorable Mention and was her team’s Most Valuable Player, as well.

Jenilee has not only been an outstanding student and athlete, but her leadership and community service involvement is truly exemplary, as well. With a highly demanding academic schedule as well as her rigorous athletic commitments, Jenilee still makes community service a priority.

Jenilee has been involved in a host of community outreach programs through PACT (Putting Athletes and Community Together) some of which included Trick or Treating for Children with Cancer, Shoot for a Cure, Children’s Miracle Network Telethon, Teams for Toys, Spartan Blast, Juvenile Diabetes Kick-Off Event and Spartan Buddies. She has also been involved in Athletes in Action, National Women in Sports Day, has volunteered her time at numerous youth volleyball clinics and has mentored children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

“Receiving the Varsity ‘S’ Club fellowship award is truly an honor,” said Jenilee, “especially when I consider the highly-acclaimed Spartan student-athletes who are also in my graduating class. I’m so happy to have the opportunity to continue my education and compete in a fifth year of volleyball at Michigan State; the school which has not only provided me with countless amazing experiences, but has also become home. I look forward to representing and being a part of the Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club this coming year through continued hard work on the volleyball court, in the classroom, and within our community.”

Jenilee’s outstanding work ethic and discipline has impressed her teammates and, in particular, her coach. “Jenilee has been the ultimate pleasure to coach,” states Spartan Head Volleyball Coach Cathy George. “It is obvious that her character and value system has had an impact on our team, as well as all those around her. Jenilee has developed into a mentor and a leader and has made it a priority to help build those fine qualities into others. I am very pleased that the MSU Alumni Varsity ‘S’ Club has recognized her special talents.”

Jenilee F. Rathje will be honored at the Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club’s Reunion Weekend September 22- 24, 2011.

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The MSU Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club, the official letter winners club of Michigan State University, wishes to continue this tradition of honoring our student-athletes in supporting their higher education dreams, but we need your help. This fellowship is not yet fully funded to endowment status. Our goal is to raise $150,000 to support the higher education of varsity letter winners at MSU. If you wish to contribute to Joey M. Spano MSU Varsity Alumni ‘S’ Club Endowment, please contact the Varsity ‘S’ Club Office or submit a check payable to Michigan State University – Spano Endowment AB6017 and mail to the Varsity Alumni S Club office at 276 Spartan Way, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. Telephone – (517) 355-8523, or visit our website.

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