Lerner wins McKay Scholarship


Annual 10k scholarship awarded to just two NCAA athletes for grad school


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Recent grad Adrienne Lerner helped the Quakers to a program-record 14-2-1 overall mark and a second-place finish in the Ivy League. She was a leader on the defense that led all NCAA Division-1 women’s soccer programs in shutout percentage (.765) and allowed just seven goals all season, by far the fewest in program history.

Photo by Raven Willis


Even with her soccer career at Penn behind her, Adrienne Lerner has yet another reason to feel the thrill of victory.

On June 6, the NCAA published a press release announcing Lerner as a recipient of the Jim McKay Scholarship — an honor bestowed upon just one male and one female athlete each year.

The postgraduate scholarship, which is awarded to two NCAA athletes for their “potential to contribute to the sports communications industry,” according to the press release, grants the winners $10,000 toward graduate school.

A classical studies major with a minor in political science, Lerner graduated magna cum laude in May and plans to use the scholarship funds to earn an MBA and pursue a career in sports broadcasting, where she can further the work of the scholarship’s namesake.

“[Jim McKay] stood for a lot of things that I really respect in the industry,” Lerner said. “He kind of put sports on the map in terms of being something that tons of people would want to watch on television.”

The voice of ABC’s Wide World of Sports for more than 40 years, host Jim McKay was best known for his use of the phrase “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat” in his introduction to the show. Coincidentally, the first broadcast of the show was for the 1961 Penn Relays.

Later, McKay earned two Emmy Awards for his coverage of the Munich massacre during the 1972 Olympics.

Lerner will have her own experience covering the Olympic games this summer as a soccer researcher for NBC, providing updates and information to the on-air talent. It is a job that is the perfect marriage between Lerner’s passions for sports and broadcasting.

“Having your job just be sitting and watching sports and helping other people to enjoy it is just kind of a dream come true for me,” Lerner said.

An avid sports fan since childhood and a soccer player since age four, Lerner has cultivated her love for athletics for nearly two decades. As a defender for the Red and Blue, she led the 2011 squad to a program best 14-2-1 record, a second-place finish in the Ivy League and the highest shutout percentage of any team in the nation.

“[Lerner] was a leader by example,” coach Darren Ambrose said. “Not only did she talk the talk, but she walked the walk.”

In recognition of her efforts, the Penn team captain received numerous accolades, including being named to the All-Ivy first team, 2011 ECAC All-Star second team and Penn’s All-Time team. Off the field, Lerner represented her fellow athletes as the president of Penn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee

Compared to her extensive experience as an athlete, Lerner’s entry into the world of television is relatively recent. She had her first encounters with broadcasting as an intern with Meet the Press, while still exploring the prospect of a major in political science. Though she ultimately decided against pursuing politics, she fell in love with broadcast television, a passion coaxed further during an internship with Half Yard Production’s development of the History Channel’s How the States Got their Shapes.

These experiences led to work with the Penn Sports Network in Lerner’s junior year, as well an internship with NBC sports the following summer. By this point, Lerner knew that she belonged in sports broadcasting.

“It was the best summer ever. I woke up, and I was so excited for work every day,” Lerner said.

Ambrose and Assistant Director of Athletics Rosemarie Burnett first encouraged Lerner to consider applying for a postgraduate scholarship during winter break of 2011. Given her interest in sports broadcasting, the Jim McKay Scholarship was a natural fit for Lerner.

After becoming a finalist for the scholarship, Lerner participated in an interview with an NCAA committee over the phone on the Sunday of Spring Fling weekend.

At the end of April, while running on a treadmill at Pottruck Health and Fitness Center, Lerner received a call from an NCAA liaison. After rushing outside to take the call, the representative was the first to congratulate her for becoming a Jim McKay scholar.

“So I like freaked out at Pottruck,” Lerner said with a laugh.

However, she was not allowed to tell anyone else about the award until the NCAA made its official announcement, which came with the June 6 press release. In November, Lerner will travel to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to officially accept the scholarship.

Lerner credits the Penn experience, including the support of her coaches, teammates, professors and peers, for having spurred her to achieve both in academics and athletics as well as to pursue this particular scholarship.

“The way I matured and grew in my four years at Penn I think gave me the confidence to apply for something like this,” Lerner said.

Though the scholarship is an individual award, Lerner aspires for it to impact the Penn soccer program and Penn community at large.

“I hope that this encourages other people on the team and people looking at Penn to really consider the types of opportunities that you get from going to a school like this and playing a sport,” Lerner said.

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