JACKSON, Tenn. – May 19, 2007 – Athletically, Jill Konkol had a record-setting college career at Union University.
Konkol set the Union cross country record for the fastest time in the 5K run with an 18:31 mark this past season. She holds four of the top-10 times in the Union record books and has won several conference and national awards.
A former cross country standout at Obion Central High School in Union City, Tenn., Konkol was part Union’s entire run of four straight TranSouth Conference titles from 2003 to the present.
Konkol was one of 392 Union graduates who received their degrees May 19 at Union’s 182nd annual spring commencement ceremony, held on the university’s Great Lawn in front of 5,000 in attendance. That brings to more than 900 the number of Union graduates from the class of 2007.
In addition to Konkol’s athletic accomplishments, she has also excelled in the classroom during her time at Union. She earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average as a pre-medical major and recently received an all-inclusive scholarship to Wake Forest University Medical School that covers tuition, room, board, books and lab fees.
It’s one of the largest scholarships ever given in Wake Forest’s medical school history.
“Jill Konkol has been a model student-athlete at Union University,” Union President David S. Dockery said. “She is an exceptional student and her acceptance and outstanding scholarship award into the medical program at Wake Forest is an indicator of her outstanding abilities.”
Alvin O. “Bud” Austin, retiring president of LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, was the keynote speaker for the graduation event.
Austin told graduates that the secret to a successful life lies in loving God, letting God love them, loving others, working hard and supporting their alma mater. But he added the caveat that success as measured by the world’s standards shouldn’t be the primary goal of their lives.
“If we want to find success, we must first find it through faithfulness,” Austin said. “God first and foremost calls you to be faithful.”
In addition to Konkol, other Union graduates are moving on to noteworthy places. Matt Gentry, an economics major from Marshall, Ark., received a University Graduate Fellowship at Vanderbilt University, where he will pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in economics.
The award includes full tuition, health insurance and an annual stipend of $26,000.
“I am just thrilled to have the opportunity,” Gentry said. “It’s definitely an answer to prayer. When I applied to Vanderbilt, I wasn’t expecting anything like that to come out of it.”
Philosophy major Gregory Poore, of Cookeville, Tenn., received the Elizabeth Tigrett Medal from Union. The award, created by Tigrett’s son to honor his mother, has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.
Poore has received a full-tuition scholarship to pursue graduate studies at Baylor University.
“We give thanks for each of the graduates, and pray God’s blessings as they leave this campus into the world and into the culture,” Dockery said. “We pray they would impact it for good for the Lord Jesus Christ, that they would be salt and light.”
For Konkol, she admits the new challenges she will soon face will be difficult. She also knows they will happen a long way from the comforts of her family and friends in the West Tennessee towns of Union City and Jackson.
“I know that Union has done an outstanding job at preparing me, not only academically, but also mentally and spiritually, to begin this new stage in my life,” she said. “I anticipate being outside of my comfort zone at Wake Forest, but that excites me because I’ve learned through running that great things in life don’t come easy.”
With additional reporting by Steven Aldridge.