April 27, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University men's tennis senior Francisco Zepponi was one of five recipients of the national Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award, for overcoming adversity and finding success on the playing court and in the classroom. The recognition is presented by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics organization. Zepponi will be honored at the N4A convention and award luncheon on Sunday, June 12 in Raleigh, N.C.
The N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award is intended to honor student athletes who have overcome great personal, academic, and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. These recipients have persevered and made significant personal strides toward success. These are the students who benefit most from academic athletic advisement programs and represent motivation and sense of satisfaction.
Zepponi, who balances the demands of collegiate athletics with the rigorous academic standards of the university, lost his father during his freshman season and his mother during his sophomore year.
"I'm very humbled to be a recipient of this award," Zepponi said. "It's encouraging to see an organization that recognizes someone's ability to overcome odds and find balance and success while handling college and athletics. I've had to deal with situations that most 19 and 20-year-olds don't face."
Santa Clara (14-11) concluded its season last weekend with a third-place finish at the West Coast Conference Championship, and Zepponi's singles victories clinched both Bronco wins in Malibu. The Pleasanton native posted 15 victories this season, with his 13th setting a program best for career singles victories. He closes his collegiate career with 75 and will graduate this spring with a degree in accounting. The two-year team captain has already secured full-time employment with a top-five regional accounting and consulting firm. In 2002, he was named the team's Rookie of the Year after shattering the single-season victory mark in Bronco record books with 30 wins.
The award is named after Wilma Rudolph (1940-94), whose life is a story of achieving against the odds. Born into a large family during the Great Depression, Rudolph had polio as a child and was never thought to be able to walk. Determination and courage throughout her youth proved doctors wrong, and Rudolph was walking normally by age 12. It was then that she decided to become an athlete. In high school, she led her basketball team to the state championship, and then moved to the track, where she participated at the 1956 Olympic Games at the age of 16, winning a bronze medal in the 4x400 relay. Four years later, Rudolph returned to the Olympics to become the first American woman to win three gold medals. She is now one of the most celebrated female athletes of all time.