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Nick Ackerman and Mary Pennefather have been named Christendom’s Thomas S. Vander Woude Athletic Scholarship winners for the Class of 2027.

Nick Ackerman and Mary Pennefather have been named Christendom’s Thomas S. Vander Woude Athletic Scholarship winners for the Class of 2027. Recognized for their athletic ability and how they have shown Christ-like leadership and heartfelt service through sports and in the classroom, both Ackerman and Pennefather will play “for the love of the game and the glory of God” when they arrive on campus this fall.

Christendom’s Thomas S. Vander Woude scholar-athlete scholarship is named after the college’s late Director of Athletics who sacrificed his life for his son in 2008. Since his passing, the college has awarded incoming freshman student-athletes with the scholarship, continuing Vander Woude’s legacy of forming student-athletes into Christ-like leaders both in sports and in the classroom.

In the case of Ackerman, Christendom was his number one choice for college from the beginning. After competing in various sports, including rugby, he saw the college as the best place to compete at a high level while also keeping academics and Christ as the focal points of his life.

Ackerman competed in varsity rugby during high school and intends on competing at the collegiate level at Christendom this fall.

Ackerman competed in varsity rugby during high school and intends on competing at the collegiate level at Christendom this fall.

“Christendom has always been my number-one pick because only at Christendom can I compete in high-level sports while keeping academics a priority and Christ at the center,” says Ackerman. “While other schools focus on only one aspect of a student, Christendom ensures students receive formation in mind, body, and, most importantly, in soul.”

A native of Warrenton, Virginia, Ackerman has been homeschooled his whole life. In high school, he competed in triathlons, played varsity tackle football, and varsity rugby, while also competing in tennis tournaments. For rugby, he was named offensive player of the year in 2022, while also helping lead his team to the state championship.

Off the field, Ackerman showed just as much leadership, leading middle schoolers in spiritual exercises for Confirmation retreats, heading up fundraisers for his local pregnancy center, and serving at Mass daily. Ackerman plans on bringing that same level of leadership and service to Christendom this fall, striving to “restore all things in Christ” both on the rugby field and off.

Like Ackerman, Pennefather also saw Christendom as her number one choice for college. Hailing from Manassas, Virginia, Pennefather attended Seton School for high school, which was founded by Anne Carroll, the wife of Christendom’s founder, Dr. Warren H. Carroll. Pennefather wanted a similarly rigorous education for college, and a place where she could compete and grow with other Catholics.

Pennefather was one of only two Seton women's basketball players in 47 years to achieve 2,000 career points — the other being her aunt, Theresa. Pennefather will bring that same prowess to Christendom this fall.

Pennefather was one of only two Seton women’s basketball players in 47 years to achieve 2,000 career points — the other being her aunt, Theresa. Pennefather will bring that same prowess to Christendom this fall.

“At Christendom, the people are real,” says Pennefather. “What I mean by that is that every student, teacher, and coach look firstly to better themselves, and the people they meet, as a person. For example, getting to practice with the women’s basketball team was so great because the girls had a great team chemistry and understood that basketball was another fun avenue for them to experience healthy competition.”

Pennefather is the latest member of her family to attend Christendom, following in the footsteps of her sister, Ann ’19, and her mother, Deirdre ‘93. Her uncle, Robert ’91, was a basketball star at Christendom, while her cousins Joseph ‘17, Patrick ‘19, and Michaela ‘20 all graduated from Christendom as well. Her aunt, Shelly, was a former professional basketball player before discerning a call to the Poor Clares in 1991.

Pennefather brings with her to Christendom a wealth of basketball experience and history, including scoring 2,000 points at Seton School, being selected as Virginia Christian Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and leading her team to the State title competition all five years of her varsity career. She also competed in tennis, swimming, soccer, and volleyball at Seton, making her an all-around athletic star and a welcome addition to the Christendom College community this fall.

For more information on other members of the incoming Class of 2027, including this year’s Padre Pio Full-Tuition Scholarship Winners, visit here.

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