WASHINGTON – Gallaudet University women’s swimmer Lisa van der Mark (Mijnsheerenland, The Netherlands) was officially recognized for being selected the 2011-12 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Inspirational Award winner. Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz presented van der Mark her plaque on Tuesday, Feb. 26, in his office along with Dean of Student Affairs Dwight Benedict, Athletic Director Michael Weinstock, Swimming and diving coach Larry Curran and his assistant coach Brian Bennett.
President Hurwitz, who is the chair of the NEAC Presidents’ Council, applauded van der Mark on her achievement and for being an inspiration to the Gallaudet community.
"Lisa embodies the true spirit of a student-athlete because she is dedicated in the classroom and in the pool," said Hurwitz. "Lisa helped the team place during the recent NEAC Championships, which is a wonderful accomplishment for the entire women's swimming program. Lisa is an inspiration to her teammates and the entire NEAC."
Van der Mark, who is a psychology major and in the Honors Program is on track to graduate this December, was selected as one of three recipients of the 2011-12 NEAC Inspirational Award.
“This is a very nice award and I am impressed that it was presented by President Hurwitz,” said van der Mark. “I want to thank everyone [family, friends, teammates, teachers, certified deaf interpreters, etc.] for being supportive and encouraging. I didn’t do this all alone.”
Van der Mark, who is deaf and legally blind, has Ushers Syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that is a leading cause of deaf blindness due to a mutation of any of 10 genes. This is an incurable disease. Lisa has not allowed her personal setback to stop her from excelling in the classroom and with the Gallaudet women’s swimming team.
“Lisa really inspires others in and out of Gallaudet athletics,” said Weinstock. “The entire athletic department is very proud of Lisa on this achievement.”
The Bison women’s swimming and diving team recently finished their season at the 2013 NEAC championships where GU placed fourth overall. It was on the second day of the championships where van der Mark swam in the 400 IM second heat.
“She swims some of the hardest events we compete in,” said Curran. “Lisa has a heart of a champion.”
She was the only swimmer in the heat but she was not alone as all of the other coaches and swimmers lined the pool to cheer her on. At the end of her race when she exited the pool the teams and fans signed and sang “Happy Birthday” to Lisa.
Van der Mark was named to the NEAC All-Academic team for the 2011-12 season and helped the Bison women’s swimming and diving team place third overall at the conference championship last year.
“She is a great role model for our student body,” said Benedict. “My experiences with Deaflympics as a team official and a former board member have allowed me to interact with many international athletes and see them achieve great success. Having Lisa (from the Netherlands) here at GU excelling in her studies and athletics is truly what Division III athletics is all about."
Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world. For more information about Gallaudet University please log onto www.gallaudet.edu.
NEAC Inspirational Award Presentation
President Hurwitz presents the NEAC Inspirational Award to Lisa van der Mark
Pictured left to right: Dean Dwight Benedict, President Hurwitz,
Lisa van der Mark, Athletic Director Michael Weinstock
GU swimming and diving head coach Larry Curran with Lisa van der Mark
and Assistant Coach Brian Bennett
Photos courtesy of Matt Kohashi