Campus involvement reflects appreciation for life

by Matt Blymier, assistant director of athletics/sports information director Photos by Blymier, except as credited.

Visit with Hanna Williams on any Monday and you will witness two concurrent states of being.

Williams, who says she was given “a second chance at life,” strives to make the most of her student experience. Photo by Tia G. La.

Williams will no doubt be physically recovering, while at the same time mentally preparing. 

Chances are, the Pennsylvania College of Technology junior is coming off a full weekend of  back-to-back soccer games or tennis matches while she gets ready to tackle the upcoming week, which includes practice, several club and organization meetings, and classes, where she maintains a 3.9 GPA.

Williams, an industrial design major, has played soccer at Penn College for three years and tennis for two seasons. She is the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Alpha Chi Honor Society, and is a member of the Penn College Construction Association and the Society of Inventors and Mad Scientists. She juggles these commitments while earning Dean’s List honors in every semester.

She is the epitome of an NCAA Division III student-athlete.

The NCAA’s ideal Division III student-athlete experiences “rigorous academics, competitive athletics, and the opportunity to pursue the multitude of other co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities offered on Division III campuses.”

“Hanna makes so many personal sacrifices in order to be involved in so many extracurricular programs, all while being virtually a 4.0 student and two-sport college athlete,” said head women’s soccer coach John McNichol Jr. “Hanna exemplifies the mission of Division III athletics; her dedication to her academic and athletic success is incredible, and she is a fantastic role model to all of her teammates. Hanna’s energy and time-management skills are second to none and allow her the ability to be such a well-rounded student-athlete.” 

Williams has been on the Wildcats tennis team for two seasons.

Williams’ work ethic and drive were ingrained while growing up on her family’s 800-acre produce farm in Marion, New York, and it was reinforced when she survived a near-fatal car accident when she was 15 years old.

Williams spent her childhood helping her father around their sprawling farm with duties that included, among other mundane tasks, applying soap to acres of apple trees to keep deer away and hitching tractors to wagons.

“I grew up having to work. Nothing was given to me,” Williams fondly recalled. “I had to prove myself.”

It was a horrific accident, however, that made Williams the person she is today.

During her 10th-grade year, Williams was a passenger in a serious accident, which led to her being airlifted for an eight-hour surgery. That was followed by nine months of bed rest and rehab, during which Williams attended classes via Skype through a laptop her friend carried around school. 

“I was given a second chance at life,” Williams said. “It changed my whole perspective on life.

“I want to be a well-rounded person. I wish I could be an expert in everything, but I know that’s not possible. So I think becoming knowledgeable and experiencing many things is the closest to that.”

Her intelligence, passion, drive and work ethic have not gone unnoticed at Penn College. In January, Williams was selected to represent the North Eastern Athletic Conference at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, which followed a week with classmates in Orlando, Florida, at the Residential Construction Management Competition.

Following that trip, Williams recovered and prepared for the second semester of her junior year.

Just as she always has.  ■