Pittsburgh—The University of Pittsburgh presented its highest athletic honors — the Blue-Gold Award, Panther Award and David Sandberg Champion Award — at the Annual Pitt Senior Awards Dinner held at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday evening.
"The Senior Awards Dinner is always a special evening as we provide a fitting tribute to our young men and women as they close out their academic and athletic careers at Pitt," Athletic Director Steve Pederson said. "It also gives us the opportunity to honor our ‘best of the best.' The recipients of these prestigious awards are truly remarkable people who set a standard for all future student-athletes to follow."
The Blue-Gold Award is given to those seniors who represent the student-athlete ideal based on academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities and citizenship. This year's Blue-Gold recipients are Lamar Patterson of the men's basketball team and Ashley Corum of the women's track and field team.
Patterson (Lancaster, Pa./St. Benedict's (N.J.)/J.P. McCaskey H.S.) was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer this past season, averaging a team-high 17.1 points per game. He is just the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 points (1,410), 500 rebounds (588) and 400 assists (427) for his career. Patterson earned his bachelor's degree in administration of justice.
Corum (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle) is a four-time conference championship qualifier as a multi-event performer. A past Big East champion in the triple jump, she is also a perennial Dean's List and Athletic Director Honor Roll student. Corum is majoring in applied developmental psychology.
The Panther Award is presented to those seniors who have best promoted Pitt through their outstanding athletic achievements. The 2014 recipients are Aaron Donald of the football team and Katie O'Rourke of the gymnastics team.
Donald (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) was the most decorated and dominant defensive player of the 2013 college football season. A unanimous first team All-American, he finished as the NCAA statistical champion in tackles for loss, averaging 2.2 per game. Donald completed a rare sweep of four prestigious national awards: the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. He is a communication major.
O'Rourke (Springfield, Va./J.E.B. Stuart) is a 10-time All-East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) honoree on the balance beam and floor. She additionally has been an NCAA Regional qualifier each of the past three seasons. O'Rourke is a media and professional communication major, and recently was named the recipient of the prestigious ACC postgraduate scholarship.
Winners of the Blue-Gold and Panther awards have their names engraved on Pitt's Varsity Walk, located on campus between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Chapel. Conceived in 1950, the Varsity Walk has nearly 200 engravings and includes such legendary names as football's Tony Dorsett and Mike Ditka, basketball's Don Hennon and track's Trecia-Kaye Smith. It has been described as one of the greatest traditions in collegiate athletics.
The David Sandberg Champion Award, founded in 2003 in memory of the former Pitt wrestler and assistant coach, is presented to the senior who best exemplifies the qualities that Sandberg embraced: dedication to academic and athletic excellence, with an unyielding spirit and passionate commitment to the improvement of the University of Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.
This year's David Sandberg Champion Award recipient is P.J. Tasser (Belle Vernon, Pa./Belle Vernon Area) of the wrestling team. Arriving at Pitt five years ago as a 165-pound freshman, Tasser would go on to become a two-time national qualifier in the heavyweight division. He totaled 69 wins competing in five different weight classes during his Pitt career. Tasser is a double major, pursuing legal studies as well as professional and media communications.