The head of the university honors the Huskies’ remarkable goalkeeper with UW’s prestigious President’s Medal for High Scholarship – and asks the 3.96 student in molecular biology “How do you do it all?”
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE -- The best sports happening in Seattle on Thursday wasn’t on a field or in an arena. There weren’t thousands, or even hundreds, there to see it. It wasn’t on television.
It was inside the Smith Room on the third floor of UW’s iconic Suzzallo Library. There, Megan Kufeld, the Huskies’ remarkable goalkeeper, received from University of Washington President Michael Young the school’s prestigious Undergraduate Medal, for excellence in all aspects of student life.
As the Huskies’ men’s basketball team was warming up down the hill at Alaska Airlines Arena for its game against UCLA, as the women’s team was downtown to play in the Pac-12 tournament at KeyArena, Kufeld was one of three undergraduates to earn the University of Washington President’s Medal for High Scholarship.
The molecular-biology major with a 3.96 grade-point average is believed to be the first Husky student-athlete in at least 20 years to receive the Undergraduate Medal. Records on the award from the Huskies’ office of student-athletic academic services go back only two decades. SAAS staffers believe Kufeld may be the first Husky student-athlete to earn a president’s medal. Ever.
Washington’s honors subcommittee of the faculty council on academic standards selected Kufeld, plus one freshman and one junior, for overall excellence among UW’s 28,754 undergraduate students across its main campus in Seattle. Kufeld, who turned 21 last month and is currently between her redshirt and junior soccer seasons, was honored for her sophomore academic year of 2012-13.
She’s only gotten better since. Last fall she allowed only 17 goals in 20 games with 88 saves in her first full season as UW’s starter. And her meteoric GPA actually went up more, from 3.95 (She slacked off an got an A-minus somewhere). She’s been women’s soccer’s delegate to the Washington Student-Athletic Advisory Council (WSAAC). In the summer she plays for the Seattle Sounders’ women’s team.
After Young introduced himself to Kufeld in the Smith Room before presenting her with her medal Thursday evening, the university’s president looked at the goalie and asked “How do you do it all?”
"Do you keep a book next to you in goal, and when the ball’s down the other end you pick it up and study?" President Young asked her.
Kufeld and her mother, father and brother up from California for the event all laughed at the UW president’s joke.
At least all thought he was joking.
Kufeld’s father Bob is a Stanford graduate and aeronautical engineer working on helicopters for NASA. Mother Melinda is a category development manager for Safeway, also near the family’s Bay Area home. Her older brother by three years is working at a Christian-based outdoor school in Southern California.
Dr. Ed Taylor, UW’s vice provost and dean for undergraduate academic affairs, informed Kufeld in January she had won the Undergraduate Medal. Dr. Taylor was at Thursday’s ceremony inside the stately room lined with books and dark wood on the third floor of Suzzallo. So was Pete Dukes, a professor of accounting and Washington’s faculty athletic representative to the Pac-12 and the NCAA. Huskies soccer coach Lesle Gallimore was there, too.
Kufeld is the latest among impressive scholars that have played for Gallimore, who just finished her 20th season leading Huskies women’s soccer. Her team’s combined grade-point average during last season was an outstanding 3.46. That’s through all the practices and games and travel and tutors and test-taking on the road.
Gallimore’s teams have made the program’s first and only 12 NCAA tournaments during her two decades as coach. It is common for each of her squads to also have multiple players in UW’s honors program.
Kufeld’s roommates and teammates were also at the ceremony: graduating senior Annie Sittauer and freshman Amanda Perez. They, Taylor, Dukes and the president of the university came to honor a student-athlete far beyond the norm. Not just at UW — but anywhere.
Amy Griffin, the long-time Huskies associate head coach and Kufeld’s goalkeeper coach, calls Megan: “She’s the coolest nerd I’ve ever met.”
Thursday, Kufeld was way cool.