Edwards Receives Prestigious St. Vincent de Paul Senior Leader Award
July 9, 2013
CHICAGO – True to his nature, Drew Edwards began slouching down in his seat the moment he realized one of DePaul University’s most prestigious awards was heading his way.
Edwards is the Blue Demon student-athlete who went from walk-on to team captain of track and field and president of the athletic department’s Captains’ Council.
The 2013 graduate in International Studies is also the co-founder of Pangea Educational Development (pangeaeducation.org), a charitable organization focusing on education as a means of unity and empowerment that makes annual service trips to Uganda.
“I was shocked about receiving the St. Vincent de Paul Senior Leader Award,” said Edwards, whose latest service mission brought him to Uganda on June 19. “I found out when I heard the word ‘Uganda’ during the awards ceremony.
“The presentation by Kathryn Statz (Associate Athletics Director) and Siobhan O’Donoghue (Assistant Director of University Ministry) was incredibly humbling. They said something about Uganda, and I began sinking in my seat when I realized they were talking about me.”
The St. Vincent de Paul award has been presented annually to two outstanding senior leaders across the entire university for more than 30 years. Edwards is the second Blue Demon student-athlete to ever receive such recognition, following Lindsey Deason in 2006. This year’s other recipient was Edwards’ roommate, Sam Rathke.
“Like most people, I sometimes have doubts about the path I have taken,” Edwards said. “I came to DePaul because I believed in its mission and Vincentian values. I wanted to grow in those values as a person. What was going through my head during the awards ceremony was that despite those natural doubts we all have, I was struck with a sort of affirmation that I did something right during my time here.
“It was incredibly humbling to be just the second person from athletics to win this award, but that simply means I'm only the second to be recognized. We have a lot of athletes doing incredible service initiatives that often go unnoticed because they do them on their own.”
In four previous trips to help revitalize the underprivileged in war-torn Uganda, Edwards and Pangea built a foundation for a new school, a soccer field, restroom facilities, dormitories and school administrative offices as volunteers worked side-by-side with members of the community.
Edwards also helped build an internet café and a chicken coop for 300 chickens with the intention that the café revenue and the sale of chicken eggs would generate a consistent income for the schools.
This summer, Edwards is heading a Pangea effort that will build a girls dormitory, a well for clean drinking water and a fresh-water collection system along with a home for a housemother who will take care of orphaned girls.
After the six-week summer mission, Edwards will return to the USA until January. That’s when he heads back to Uganda and begins a two-year stint as the track coach at Awach School. He will also head up Pangea’s operations in that African country and look to expand its reach with partner schools.
“You had to distinguish yourself in a very special way to receive this award,” said DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto. “What Drew has accomplished with Pangea in Uganda is over the top. It speaks to his character and the passion he has for people in our world who are marginalized.
“He is a co-founder of a charitable organization while at the same time excelling in the class room, competing in track and becoming a leader for our student-athletes.”
Ponsetto noticed the impact Edwards had on his peers.
“His leadership style was so inspiring that he was elected president of Captains’ Council,” Ponsetto said. “There was something special about him that his teammates and classmates all wanted to follow his lead. There is a compassion he has as a wonderful listener and great vision at such a youthful age.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him. It was an honor having him as a student-athlete in our program.”
Edwards spoke about his personal growth the last four years in Lincoln Park.
“I am indebted to everyone in the DePaul community for pouring themselves into me over my time at DePaul,” Edwards said. “From faculty, to staff, to my coaches, teammates, and everyone in the athletic department---so many people contributed to my development.
“Being able to be part of a culture that fosters being the best you can be in all aspects of your life is invaluable. It's a culture that not only supports and believes in you, but it challenges and pushes you.”
What always strikes Statz is how genuine and authentic Edwards is, and that he is not overly impressed with his own accomplishments. In fact, Statz said Edwards had to be “strongly encouraged” to participate in the St. Vincent de Paul award process because he wasn’t sure his service record was deserving of the recognition.
“Drew is just cut from a different cloth---a collaborator, a big-picture guy who sees things in a different way,” Statz said. “He is like St. Vincent de Paul in that way. He sees things on a large scale and works with a lot of people to go a long way.
“Drew has been blessed with amazing listening skills and is so eager to learn about other people. In a world where so many people prefer to talk, he loves to listen and learn. I don’t know where it came from, but at the age of 22 he has a world view that not many people will ever have.
“He is the kind of person that will do something really amazing in the next 10 years, and we'll all be reading about him.”