America’s growing preoccupation with baseball had reached Bucknell by 1870, when the Olympian Baseball Club formed to play and win six games. Soon, football eclipsed baseball in popularity on campus, and an athletic association began to raise funds and organize games. As intercollegiate athletic competition began to take shape on college campuses across the United States, the Bucknell administration
began to consider the question: To what extent, if any, should intercollegiate sports
be part of a Bucknell education? The way forward remained unclear until 1898, when
one outstanding student would define the scholar-athlete ideal that still distinguishes
Bucknell and its students.
Christy Mathewson, Class of 1902, was on campus for just three years, but he
would forever leave his mark on the University. The future record-setting New
York Giants pitcher excelled in football, baseball and basketball, became president
of his first-year class, sang with the glee club, and joined literary societies and a
fraternity. Most important, he made the academic honor roll. Mathewson went
on to become an inaugural member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as well
as an author, war hero and family man renowned for his integrity and intellect.
Generations of Bison athletes have followed Mathewson’s lead, devoting themselves to their teams and sports and especially to their academic pursuits. As of this
writing, Bucknell ranks second only to Stanford for the four-year graduation rate
of its student-athletes — it currently stands at 92 percent. (New rankings will be
released in late October.) The Bison also claim the highest total number of Patriot
League scholar-athletes in the league since 1990 (139), and 441 of our students
earned positions on the Patriot League Academic Honor Role in 2014-15. These
and the many other accomplishments of our scholar-athletes prove that Bucknell
does college athletics the right way — placing academics first, while offering the
leadership, teamwork and discipline that athletic participation so often fosters.
And these high-achieving students continue as alumni to succeed in all facets of
their lives, throughout their lives. You will learn about one such example, Sunil
Gulati ’81, profiled in the cover story of this issue of Bucknell Magazine. Gulati has
helped bring the world’s most popular sport, soccer, to unprecedented prominence
in the United States while fulfilling his calling as a scholar and teacher.
It’s now our newest students’ turn. About a quarter of the students in the Class
of 2019 will play Division I sports, along with hundreds more who will join club and
intramural teams. They know that we will not lower our academic expectations for
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CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
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