Athletics Banquet Celebrates Unprecedented Success
June 5, 2017
CHICAGO -- There was an unforgettable convergence of unprecedented success and heartfelt gratitude when DePaul celebrated its greatest conference season at its annual athletics banquet.
The six BIG EAST titles in 2016-17 is the most in Blue Demon history, and a major factor in this run of champions is outgoing DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
Ever cognizant of the potential for athletics to shine a bright light on the overall excellence of his university, Father Dennis worked tirelessly and remained steadfast in his support of Blue Demon student-athletes.
The two most ground-breaking moments during his 13-year tenure that will forever shape the future of DePaul athletics were joining the BIG EAST Conference and subsequently reconfiguring its membership plus the construction of the new Wintrust Arena near McCormick Place.
It was Father Dennis who turned both dreams into a reality.
It's no wonder DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto took such joy in watching Father Dennis completely immersed in the moment-by-moment updates as the softball and men's track teams won BIG EAST titles within a seven-minute span on May 13.
The broad smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye said it all.
"A majority of the credit goes to our student-athletes, and we had outstanding leadership in a variety of sports," Ponsetto said. "The student-athletes' pride, dedication and affinity for DePaul drove them to unparalleled heights.
"It's no wonder we had the greatest year in our history with someone like Father Dennis championing the student-athletes every step of the way.
"He went to great lengths in finding ways to support our department through facility improvements, upgrading coaching staffs and overall academic support. With such dedication from the top, you can't help but be highly energized to compete on the field and in the class room."
Women's soccer, women's basketball, softball, women's tennis, men's indoor and outdoor track brought home six regular-season or tournament titles. Men's tennis earned the first No. 1 seed at the BIG EAST tournament in program history. Women's basketball, softball and women's tennis advanced to the NCAA tournament and Trevor Kintyhtt qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
"I am so proud of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff for winning six BIG EAST titles," Ponsetto said. "At the beginning of the season, I talked about making 2016-17 really a special year for Father Dennis in his last year as president. I had no idea what was in store, and now, I couldn't be more proud of every student-athlete and coach who stepped up to such a high level in representing DePaul."
In addition to winning the most conference titles in school history, DePaul had a tremendous year academically as student-athletes posted a 3.5 grade-point average. The Blue Demons won 17 major BIG EAST postseason awards, had four All-Americans, five Academic All-Americans and earned four Coach-of-the Year awards.
Competing in 13 of the 22 BIG EAST-sanctioned sports, DePaul tied with Marquette for the most league titles. Ponsetto could see why this year was the best.
"I noticed how they supported one another and genuinely cared about the camaraderie and success they shared," Ponsetto said about her student-athletes. "I saw how they would come out and cheer on the other teams.
"You could feel the energy and excitement in this building when a team would come home with another BIG EAST title. I saw it in their eyes, and there was a lot of hugging. They took pride in the excellence they have built."
Father Dennis chuckled at the memory of an early encounter with his athletic director.
"Much of what we have in athletics, Jeanne came to me and said we need to do this," he said. "In my first couple of days here, Jeanne told me that the previous president had committed to joining the BIG EAST, and that means we need a new soccer field. I said, fine. How much will that cost. She said one million dollars. I just gasped.
"But thanks to a generous donation by Vic Cacciatore, I was able to announce the new soccer field at my inauguration. Over and over again, her vision inspired me that we can take this huge step.
"It was always Jeanne coming to me with bold, new ideas. I was never known for good ideas, but I had some skill at executing those ideas and getting it done."
Holtschneider and Ponsetto were quite a dynamic pairing.
"To me, Jeanne is what is best about DePaul," Father Dennis said. "She bleeds DePaul blue, and her passion for family and the DePaul community spills over to the rest of the university. For her, it's all about people helping out each other.
"She is one of the greatest believers in that, and she inspires all of us to join her in that belief."
In addition to Father Dennis, the athletic department bid farewell last Friday night to golf coach Betty Kaufmann after 19 years heading up the program and to outgoing Senior Associate Athletics Director Kathryn Statz after her stellar 15-year career.
Here is a rundown on 2016-17 awards winners.
Rev. John R. Cortelyou, C.M. Award
Michael Hie Memorial Award
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