For Ali Downing and the SIUE Softball team, the pursuit of excellence isn’t just achieved on the field.
The senior pitcher and her teammates work together on the diamond scoring runs, turning double plays and winning games; they also lean on each other to make the grade in the classroom, earning a 3.451 team GPA – tops among the University’s 16 teams.
“Our coach (Sandy Montgomery) makes sure that we know we’re students first before we are athletes,” said Downing. “If someone doesn’t understand a subject, we tutor each other and help each other study.”
But success on the field and in the classroom wouldn’t be possible for Ali without the generous gifts from donors who fund her athletics scholarship.
To save money, Ali attended Indian Hills Community College for two years in her hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, before transferring to SIUE in 2008. Downing is a triplet (her sister, Karie, plays volleyball at SIUE, and her sister, Erin, plays volleyball for Morningside College in Iowa), and, with a brother just 18 months older, the Downing family has had four children in college during the last five years.
After completing her studies at Indian Hills, Ali knew she wanted to earn a four-year degree. She was drawn to SIUE because of a combination of factors—the softball team’s winning tradition, the University’s excellent School of Business and career opportunities that come from attending college in a major metropolitan area.
Like most of the 300 student-athletes that are part of SIUE Intercollegiate Athletics, Ali does not receive full tuition reimbursement. As the University enters its second year of NCAA Division I play, it’s critical that SIUE has the resources that meet or exceed its competition in attracting the best and brightest student athletes. Ali’s partial scholarship allows her to pursue two dreams: pitching for the Cougars and pursuing a career in advertising.
“Receiving a scholarship has had a tremendous impact on me,” Ali said. “Everyone who gets a scholarship works harder and strives to be better to earn and keep their scholarship. It means a lot be part of something like the SIUE softball team. I’m proud to be a part of that tradition.”