For rising freshman Miranda Keller, there was no question about what she was looking for in an ideal college: a place where she could thrive academically and athletically, all while strengthening her Catholic Faith. As any student-athlete knows, however, finding a school that fulfills all three of those criteria is hard in today’s academic landscape. After being heavily pursued by other colleges to play basketball, including receiving full-tuition scholarships from some, Keller eventually found the ideal school she was looking for all along: Christendom College, where she will study and compete as one of the Class of 2025’s Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Scholarship recipients this fall.
Keller, who hails from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, established herself as one of the state’s top power forwards in basketball during her high school career at Bishop McDevitt High School. While there, she helped bring Top 8 State finishes in basketball to the school two years in a row and was named to the Central PA Elite AAU Basketball All-Academic Team for seven straight years, all while also earning All-Star honors in soccer as well as her school’s goalkeeper.
Off the court, Keller was the valedictorian of her graduating class, finishing her senior year with a 4.6 GPA. Along with being the president of her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, she was also a member of the Mathematics National Honor Society, Foreign Language National Honor Society, Poetry Club, Christian Service Club, Spanish Club, Talitha Koum, Philosophy Club and Campus Ministry.
To say Keller is talented would be an understatement. Her accomplishments on the court and in the classroom attracted heavy interest from multiple colleges in Pennsylvania, who sought her to play varsity basketball at the collegiate level. Keller shared that desire as well, but her desire for a truly Catholic education came first.
“A Catholic education is important to me because Catholicism gives context to and unifies every academic subject and pursuit in Christ,” says Keller.
In the spring of 2021, still not committed to a college for the fall, Keller was contacted by Christendom’s athletics department. That personal outreach convinced Keller to explore the college more closely. Immediately, she was struck by the school’s passionately Catholic character, and how it extended from the college’s Chapel to every aspect of campus life — including athletics. Over the next two months, she furiously worked with the athletics and admissions departments in the application process, just managing to complete the process before the college’s March 1 deadline. Several weeks later, she was notified of her acceptance and then visited the college for the first time — on the birthday of the college’s founder, Dr. Warren H. Carroll.
Keller and her family were impressed by the students, faculty, and staff during her visit, only convincing her further that Christendom was the place for her.
“One thing that separates Christendom from the other colleges and teams that I have looked at is that the people who go there are going because they are passionate about their Faith,” says Keller. “They are not necessarily chasing a championship, although they work hard each year in hopes of earning one. The crown they are chasing is something far more valuable than a conference title can ever be. I think that is the most striking difference to me.”
In early April, Keller’s many accomplishments resulted in one of Christendom’s top honors: the Thomas S. Vander Woude Memorial Scholarship. Named for former athletic director Thomas Vander Woude, the scholarship is awarded to select freshmen who embody the values that Vander Woude emphasized in his own life: Christlike leadership and heartfelt service through sports, in the classroom, and on campus. To receive a scholarship named after such a man, whose legacy continues to inspire people to this day, was enormously impactful to Keller.
Finally, after a whirlwind few months, she felt like she had found the ideal school she had been searching for all along. Just before the college’s May 1 deposit deadline, Keller committed to playing basketball and studying at Christendom.
“I want to study and compete at Christendom College because of their commitment to ‘restoring all things in Christ,’” says Keller. “There is a strong emphasis on excellence inside and outside of the classroom with Heaven as the ultimate goal.”
A year ago, Keller barely knew Christendom existed. But now, after months of prayer, discernment, and hard work, she will be attending the school this fall as one of three Thomas S. Vander Woude Scholarship recipients. Together, they will all seek to accomplish the same goal: to live up to the legacy of Vander Woude and help fulfill the mission of the college, both on the court and off of it.
“I would just like to express my gratitude to Christendom for welcoming me into their community,” concludes Keller. “I am very excited to call Christendom my second home for the next four years.”