Cross country's Jordan White and football's Chris Marve earned top awards at Monday night's annual Black and Gold Banquet, Vanderbilt's student-athlete awards dinner.
Marve won the coveted Jim Robins Award, which goes to the student-athlete whose life embodies devotion to learning, service to the community and achievement in athletics. Marve was a two-time team captain, an all-SEC linebacker and led the Commodore defense the last several seasons.
White earned the Dr. Jerry Reves Award for having the highest cumulative grade point average. White majored in Medicine, Health, and Society and will graduate in May with an undergraduate degree with plans to continue on to earn her masters. She has a GPA of 3.889.
White was also voted by her colleagues as the Female Comeback Player of the Year. She overcame a painful lower leg injury to help her team win the SEC Cross Country Championship and finish sixth at the NCAA Championship.
Basketball's Festus Ezeli also earned two honors. He was voted the Male Comeback Player of the Year after overcoming knee injuries to help lead his team to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship.
The student-athletes also vote annually on a Miss Commodore and Mr. Commodore Award, which go to graduating seniors who best represent their sport, all student-athletes and the campus community. Ezeli won that vote, too. One of the most popular players in program history, both with his fellow students and Vanderbilt's fan base, Ezeli contributed significantly to the success of Vanderbilt basketball in addition to representing the university well in the community.
Cross country All-American Alexa Rogers, who led Vanderbilt to its first SEC cross country championship, was Miss Commodore. Rogers finished second individually at the SEC Championship and led the team to a sixth place finish at the NCAA Championships where she became a 2011 All-American.
Nia Washington of the track and field team was honored with the Community Service Award after four years of commitment to service on local, regional and international levels.
Washington is currently the founding member of the Women Empowerment Project at the Tennessee Department of Correction for Women. She leads classes in five areas of study covered in the GED exam, assembles lesson plans, provides emotional support and fosters relationships which promote personal growth through academia and morality. Nia helped shape the initiative into a weekly service that sends women to the Tennessee Department of Correction to lead classes and tutor women who are working to obtain their GED degree. Outside of teaching classes, she is also in charge of compiling and organizing lesson plans and study guides. The Women Empowerment Project won the title of 2011 Most Outstanding Community Service Project at Vanderbilt University's Greek Awards.
In addition, Nia also has volunteered with International Student Volunteers in Machalilla, Ecuador. She taught English classes to local adults and children, tracked migration patterns and number of whales for the Pacific Whale Foundation, and spread awareness of wildlife preservation to locals through classes and creation of murals around the village.
In the Nashville community, Nia is a mentor through the Men of Valor program for a 12-year-old girl whose stepfather was incarcerated. Other involvements include the Rake-A-Thon for the Make A Wish Foundation, Alive Hospice Volunteer, as well as a kitchen assistant for Room at the Inn.
Bowling's Brittni Hamilton and football's Brandon Barden won the respective Plays of the Year, as voted upon by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Hamilton, Vanderbilt's 2011 Female Athlete of the Year, won for her perfect 300 game against Louisiana Tech while Barden, a senior tight end, was cited for his incredible 73-yard catch and run for a touchdown against Wake Forest.
The Female Newcomer of the Year was Grace Orders from the SEC champion cross country team while baseball left fielder Tony Kemp was honored in consideration of his tremendous freshman season last spring, a season that was not finished until long after last year's Black and Gold Banquet. Kemp was the 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American. Orders placed sixth for Vanderbilt at the SEC Championship and made the SEC's all-freshman team in the process.
Soccer's Amanda Essay was introduced as next year's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee president. Local sports personality George Plaster was the guest speaker, selected and invited by the student-athletes.