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Recent Lander Graduate Honored with Top Academic Award

Standing with Katherine Ergle (middle) are Dr. Judith Neufeld, Dr. Chris Sacerdote, Dr. Mary Jane Trainor, and Dr. Suzanne Ozment.

In December 2017, Lander University senior Katherine Anne Ergle was about to walk across stage during year-end commencement when she suddenly heard her name called from the graduation podium.

In the blur of the moment, Ergle realized she had just won something called the Thayer Award for maintaining the school's highest GPA for the semester.

Four months later, on April 16, 2018, Ergle was formally presented with the honor, receiving a Sterling silver cup and an undisclosed cash award - and still a bit in shock over winning.

"I had never heard of the Thayer Award until they announced it at graduation," said Ergle, a native of Abbeville who received her degree in early childhood education.

On hand to present the award were Dr. Judith Neufeld, Dean of Lander's Department of Teacher Education; two of Ergle's instructors, Dr. Chris Sacerdote and Dr. Mary Jane Trainor; and Dr. Suzanne Ozment, Lander Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

"One of the great privileges I have is recognizing academic excellence," Ozment said at the presentation. "And I'm confident that Katherine will have a rewarding and successful career."

Ergle, who majored in early childhood education, maintained a 4.0 GPA during the Fall semester of 2017.

Both Sacerdote and Trainor said the achievement is even more remarkable because Ergle not only maintained the minimum of 60 credit hours to qualify for the Thayer Award, she also held a part-time job at a local Sonic Drive-In.

"Students like Katherine make our job much easier," Trainor said. "I am so proud of her."

After savoring the honor, Ergle said she expects the cash award to help her next fall when she becomes a new kindergarten teacher at Lakeview Elementary in Greenwood.

"I plan to use some of the Thayer money to get that started," she said. "And winning this award really means a lot - knowing that all the work I put into my time at Lander paid off."