Watching Kasey Cooper play softball in the red, white and blue uniform of Team USA reminded me yet again what I have known for so long: Auburn is a place where dreams come true.
Cooper’s dreams include playing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and becoming a doctor. After she graduates from Auburn University next spring with a 3.98 GPA in mechanical engineering, Cooper plans to enroll in medical school while continuing to play on the USA Women’s National Team.
As impressive as Kasey Cooper’s story is—and it is very impressive indeed—she is not alone.
In our celebration of 125 Years of Auburn Women, Auburn Athletics reconnected with student-athletes from each of our women’s sports, sharing their stories on AuburnTigers.com.
In the same way Auburn women have given us so much to cheer about during their time as student-athletes, their accomplishments post-graduation in many ways are even more inspiring.
Consider the journey of Sarah Wentworth ’04 (right), Auburn’s first SEC Gymnast of the Year in 2000. After graduating from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which is also celebrating 125 years in 2017, Wentworth practiced in Birmingham for eight years.
Then in 2015, sensing a call to full-time missionary work, Wentworth packed up and moved to Uganda, where she uses her veterinary expertise as a platform to share her faith.
Looking back on her years as an Auburn gymnast, she said this: “Being a student-athlete at Auburn requires discipline, time management, hard work and focus. I think these are the building blocks for success in all of life. I was not particularly the smartest student or most gifted gymnast, but I was determined to work hard and do my best in whatever I engaged in.”
Work, hard work. It is something Auburn women have embraced since 1892.
It is something Maggie Bowen ’05 (left) knows well. The captain of our national championship women’s swimming and diving teams in 2002-03 says attending Auburn was the “best choice” she’s ever made.
“I feel like I am always an asset to my employer because I care about the bigger picture,” says Bowen, who works in health care in Louisville, Ky. “That is a huge part about Auburn. You care more about Auburn than about yourself. The Auburn Creed, every word of it, you can apply to everything in your life.”
Bowen’s teammate, Margaret Hoelzer ’05, helped Auburn win three NCAA championships and won three medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Hoelzer lives in Seattle, serving as the spokesperson for the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
Once, after Hoelzer shared her story at a conference, a counselor approached to say a teenage girl she counseled had been in the audience, determined to see and hear the famous swimmer and survivor.
“I just want to be able to see her in person because she’s been through it,” the counselor told her, relaying the young girl’s message. “Because she’s the light at the end of the tunnel and she’s on the other side.”
Like a light shining brightly, Auburn women serve as role models, providing an example for all who would follow.
From all over the world, young women come to Auburn. They thrill us with their athletic achievements. They fill us with pride when they walk across the stage at commencement. Then they instill their Auburn values in their communities, corporations and families.
Kerron Stewart ’08 (right) came to Auburn from Jamaica, helping Auburn win the 2006 NCAA team championship in track and field before winning three Olympic medals.
A decade later, Stewart still calls Auburn home. “When I came to school here I was a young lady,” Stewart says. “But now, I am truly a woman, and I’m still in Auburn and I love it.”
For 125 years, women have been making Auburn better. Auburn student-athletes, with their talent and tenacity, unite our campus, bringing the Auburn Family together to celebrate their victories.
To cheer them on as they chase their dreams.
Kasey Cooper (top), the national and SEC Player of the Year who gave us one more thrill when she hit a home run in Team USA’s recent exhibition games on campus, put it best.
When Cooper first shared her Olympic dream as an Auburn freshman, she was told, “Make it where they can’t deny you.”
When I think of 125 years of Auburn women, one word comes to mind.